Monday, 1st Week of Advent (3rd December, 2018)
First Reading: Is 2: 1-5 (He will rule)
Gospel: Mt 8: 5-11 (I am not worthy to have you)
We know a priest is an alter Christus (another Christ). In fact, any baptized person is another Christ. For we are created in the image of God and therefore do not bear our own individual images.
Today as we enter the advent season, the Church through the celebration of the feast of St. Francis’ Xavier makes us realize that we are to become Christ Himself. He is a symbol of person who considered himself destined to be instrument of God. His vocation origin with the firm faith and deep conviction that the Spirit of God is inspiring to represent Him and say, “Lord I am here! What do you want me to do? Send me anywhere you like-even to India!”.
The readings of today clearly make us realize this truth. The first reading from the book of Prophet Jeremiah says, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jer 1: 5). The loving God who formed us and gave us existence also has given mission to each one of us.
We find this mission of God entrusted to us in today’s gospel too. It brings us two important points for reflection. One is that Jesus sent his seventy others on ahead of him in pairs (Lk 10:1). Secondly, he sent them to every town and places where He himself intended to go (Lk 10:1).
The first point is that he sent them in pairs. We are not sent alone. God has not entrusted His mission to be fulfilled by any one individual’s effort or performance. We are sent in companionship with one another. We daily experience that when we ask any boy (individually) to go somewhere or do something, the boy or even an adult person would not go alone. You would definitely see him look for another companion to along with him. Or you would rarely notice any single woman or man going out for marketing. A normal human experience shows that a person always needs company of somebody else. It is all the more necessary in doing the work of God too. Even when Mother Mary was commissioned with a vocation to bear the Son of God, she did not fulfill it by herself alone. There was the grace of God, spirit of God bestowed upon her and she had the care and protection of her husband St. Joseph as well. So too, our mission of God is not done by one’s individual desire or effort but there is collaboration with one another. The other may be a single person or many but one does not do it alone. It calls us for a concerted effort to carry on God’s mission.
The second point of reflection is that we are called to do what Jesus Himself would do. We are reminded that he sent the other seventy to places where he would go. We are here to carry out not our own but God’s mission. In order to carry out His mission, Jesus forbids them to carry purse, bag, sandals or even greeting others on the way. Why so? One might wonder why he should forbid saluting another which is a good habit in itself or carrying along things for extra for any emergency or future needs. Jesus appears to come even harshly when he says, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:26). The inner meaning of the necessity of denying ourselves of all these is to focus ourselves on the mission of Jesus. There is every possibility that care for formalities, possession of goods etc. would deviate the mission Jesus gives us. We may be familiar with the story of a muni keeping a cat to chase away the rat so that he would not be disturbed during puja. Later gradually he ends up in keeping a life partner for him and loses his identity of muni. It could happen to us too if we pay attention to things instead of mission of Jesus.
Jesus’ identity was given by God the Father Himself. We see it at His baptism and transfiguration. Jesus strives show this fact in His mission too. In every act and word of His, he points out his origin and nature of His mission i.e., to fulfill the will of God. He shows it till his death on the Cross. He wants us to reflect His image. At the miracle of multiplication of bread, when disciples expressed their anxiety over feeding the multitudes, Jesus says, “Give them yourselves”. In other words, Jesus wants ourselves to be the symbol of His love and salvation. And therefore St. Paul too says, “St. Paul says, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20). It is not our things but we ourselves are called to be the signs of God’s love. We are her in God’s place. We are here to fulfill what God wants us to fulfill. Today there is every temptation to replace His image with ours as some do. Amen.