We all have a fundamental choice, and it’s not complicated. Imagine your life as a computer program. At every moment, God presents you with certain choices. It’s up to you to decide what you do. The fact that you’re given a choice is a good thing. It means that God is not trying to compel you – he respects your freedom. But it’s not the freedom to choose as such that decides your outcome, it’s the actual choice you make that determines where you end up: heaven or hell.
Let’s take as an example the towns Jesus is sending the 72 apostles to this week. They are travelling from Galilee to Jerusalem via Samaria, announcing that the kingdom is at hand. Jesus is ‘gathering the tribes’ as prophesied in Isaiah 11:12 “He will raise a signal for the nations and will assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.”
The people in these towns have the fundamental option of welcoming the apostles or rejecting them. It’s that simple. Now maybe some of the people are naturally fearful of strangers, or possibly Samaritan haters of Jews. No wonder our Lord instructs the disciples to make their first statement “Peace to this house”. But Jews in general (and also Samaritans) followed the Pentateuch, which clearly states the principles of hospitality, according to the Jewish Encyclopedia.
The “ger,” the sojourner who lived with a Hebrew family or clan, was assured by the Biblical law not only of protection against oppression (Ex. xxiii. 9) and deceit (Lev. xix. 33), but also of love from the natives (Deut. xvi. 14), who were to love him even as themselves (Lev. xix. 34).
So, when the apostles report back, it seems that many of the towns have in fact been welcoming to them and accepted the proclamation of the Kingdom:
The seventy-two came back rejoicing!
We understand that some did actually reject Christ and his apostles, for he says,
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.”
We’re all afraid of evangelizing our friends and families, because we’re fundamentally afraid of rejection. Stop worrying and start obeying Jesus. Yes, our families may choose to reject us. But keep trying in various ways, and go as a man of peace, and not as an argumentative spirit, and the Holy Spirit will open hearts and minds wherever there is an opportunity.
Concrete example: every night I do some spiritual reading on the Saint of the next day. On Thursday night, I read about St Thierry, who died on 1 July, 533. I happen to know someone called Thierry, and thought, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if he happened to ring on 1 July. I could tell him about this saint!” Now I usually only hear from Thierry about half a dozen times a year, and it’s always in a work context. But lo and behold, at 12 o’clock on Friday, my mobile rang and who should it be but Thierry himself, so I was able to carry out my plan by sending him a link to this saint’s life story. (Fortunately, he reads French.) I’m always amazed when God creates these opportunities.
Jesus says in Luke 10: ‘Anyone who listens to you listens to me; anyone who rejects you rejects me, and those who reject me reject the one who sent me.’ The more you give people the opportunity of listening to you explain the kingdom of God, the more likely they are to move towards the option of following Christ themselves. And don’t we want everyone to be able to ‘rejoice that their names are written in heaven’?
Word format: Year C 14th Sunday 2016
Pdf format: Year C 14th Sunday 2016