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Leap into heaven

First slide

Gospel Commentary LK 10:1-12, 17-20

 

July 20, we mark the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s lunar landing. Astronaut Neil Armstrong, who took the first step on the surface of the moon, declared, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” In a spiritual light, we could say Our Lord, by his cross and resurrection, has taken “the great leap” for us, freeing us from slavery to sin, restoring the life of grace and opening the gates of heaven.  Each of us, however, must take it one step each day as a faithful disciple, walking with Our Lord, the Good Shepherd, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

 

In our Gospel passage today, Our Lord presented clear directions to keep us on the right path. First, a disciple must not be weighed down. Jesus said, “Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals.” Too often, a person allows something to weigh him down, which in turn prevents him from being a fully committed disciple. For example, financial concerns — the pursuit of wealth — could weigh us down so much that wealth becomes the idol: Wealth management overtakes spiritual management.

 

The “fear of missing out” may weigh us down and take control of our lives, so that we are living for the moment, seeking instant gratification and following the crowd — why else do Americans spend an average of nine hours a day on “screen time?” Or, the open wounds of past hurts may weigh us down, eclipsing the blessings of the present. 

 

Instead, a disciple should use the gifts of this world — wealth in the broadest sense — for the glory of God, the good of others through charitable works, and for oneself. The disciple enjoys life, but takes time in prayer and worship to dwell in the Lord’s presence; recognizes past hurts but forgives, allowing the wound to heal and blocking Satan’s desire to have us live in the hurtful past, not the blessedness of the present.

 

Second, the disciple must “shake off” rejection, like dust from the feet. Here Our Lord used a Semitic expression, meaning, “Don’t take to heart someone else’s rejection. Don’t let the insults or mean spiritedness crush your spirit. You can’t force someone else to believe, and in the end everyone must account for his own life. So don’t be discouraged. Carry on.”

 

Third, the disciple needs to have good, faithful companions. Notice that Jesus sent them out in pairs. A faithful companion gives encouragement and provides honest counsel, direction and correction. A disciple needs a faithful confidant with whom he can seek advice, open his heart and vent; this person does not desire to gossip or blab to everyone else. No, this confidant is the trusted, wise friend who accompanies us on our journey — for example, a priest, spouse or proven friend. Proverbs 18:19 teaches, “A brother is a better defense than a strong city, and a friend is like the bars of a castle.”

 

Fourth, the disciple must be prepared to face the enemy. Our Lord said he was sending them out like “lambs among wolves.” However, he also reminded them that they would have the power to tread upon serpents and scorpions. Keep in mind, serpent always refers to the devil and his demons, and scorpions — vicious creatures easily provoked to attack with a terrible, painful sting — refer to evil people, who act in kind. Interestingly, it is said if scorpions are caged together, they will attack and kill each other, just as evil people ultimately destroy each other and themselves. Nevertheless, the faithful disciple will be victorious in the Lord: Satan will fall like lightening, and the full force of the enemy will not be able to harm us.

 

In the end, having taken so many small steps each day with Our Lord and relying on his grace, the time will come for the final launch. We will take the leap to heaven, to be embraced by Our Lord and see our names written in the book of life.

 

Fr. Saunders is pastor of Our Lady of Hope Church in Potomac Falls and episcopal vicar for faith formation and director of the Office of Catechetics.

 

 

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019