Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Human relationships are complex – at home with family, or among friends and coworkers. There are certain gifts that we simply cannot get just by asking for them: respect and trust, love and friendship, to name a few. To demand them – “respect me!” “love me!” – only highlights their elusiveness. When we sense their absence, we’d do anything to get them, analyzing where things ran afoul. Some patient reflection and prayer – as opposed to fretting and anxious maneuvering – can go a long way to break us of fear-driven demands or despair.
The same challenges face Christians who seek to evangelize the culture around them. Misunderstanding or scorn from others can lead us to doubt either (a) our own mission or (b) the goodness of those we encounter:
…Into whatever house you enter,
first say, “Peace to this household.”
If a peaceful person lives there,
your peace will rest on him;
but if not, it will return to you.
In today’s Gospel from Luke, Jesus encourages us his 72 disciples to offer the gift of peace to everyone they encounter. He does not expect that his disciples – including us – are already perfect models of peacefulness. But he does ask that we offer the gift, hard though it be. This peace (like love, friendship, trust or respect) can be received or rejected. Any parent, friend, or spouse knows this. But even when it is rejected by others, Jesus tells us, peace returns to us. Put another way, we receive this gift not by demanding it from others; we receive it by first offering it.
In a culture that is indifferent to and skeptical of religious commitments, respect and trust do not come easily. But Christ instructs us to offer these elusive gifts – along with love and peace – knowing that God ultimately sustains us.
As Paul writes confidently in Galatians,
From now on, let no one make troubles for me;
for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit,
brothers and sisters. Amen.