We are encouraged in the Gospel for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time to find security and freedom in the fact that God knows who we are, not in how powerful we are in God’s name. This portion of the Gospel of Luke is well known to most of us. Being sent like lambs among wolves and not taking much for the journey is an invitation that most would balk at. In the accepted opinion of our day, it would be irresponsible to go on a journey and expect others to take care of our needs. We are raised on self-sufficiency and individualism. Depending on others is not one of our primary values and virtues. So how are we to understand this reversal of common wisdom? It certainly isn’t the only time Jesus tries to turn the wisdom of the world upside down.
The assumption that Jesus makes in His teaching is that the individual sent in mission is acting in the name of the community. The needs of one are seen as the needs of all and whatever one person has is meant to take care of the needs of everyone. That might be the beginning of our difficulty to live out this teaching of Jesus.
To begin to create the beloved community that St. John talked about so much, we might need to repair some of the brokenness that divides us from one another. Within our larger society and the community of the Church, it is essential that we transform what separates us into what unites us. Any structures within our communities that are based on power over others — as opposed to the willingness to wash each others feet — must be transformed.
As a priest, I must continually examine myself to make sure that I am not consciously or unconsciously participating in the belief that I am more important than others or my vocation is higher than others. As a person who is comfortably secure economically, I need to make sure that I don’t use that economic security to lord it over others or take advantage of others. In almost every segment of my life, whether that’s gender or skin color or country of origin, my individual choices lead to the building up or the tearing down of the beloved community of Jesus.
In the accounts from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear characteristics of this community clearly spoken and noticed. They are a group of people who consciously love one another even in the midst of their disagreements. They are a community who shares what they have in common so that the needs of all are met. They noticed the members of the community who are not being served and they set aside folks who are given the specific task to serve those who are in need. The more our communities begin to look and act like that is the source of our freedom to be sent in mission and to act as the Gospel asks us. We will be free to count on others to meet our needs because we can trust the relationships that have built the community and we can trust the generosity of God.
What areas in your own personal life are you willing to transform so that you can be seen clearly loving others and sharing what you have to support the needs of others? How are you willing to work within the communities of worship that you join to help bring about a more clear vision of the community that Jesus began to build?
Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.