St Luke, Evangelist - October 18


            The gospel for the feast of St Luke, Evangelist, has its parallel in Matthew 10:1-16, the mission of the Twelve Apostles, but in Luke (Lk 10:1-9), not only the Twelve are sent out as missionaries but also another seventy-two disciples. “The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit” (Lk 10:1)


            Francis, soon after his conversion, was struck by the parallel passage in Matthew when the priest explained it to him after Mass at the Portiuncula. “Provide yourselves with no gold or silver, not even with a few coppers for your purses, with no haversack for the journey or spare tunic or footwear or a staff, for the workman deserves his keep” (Matt 9-10). He immediately exulted in the spirit of God. “This is what I want, this is what I seek, this is what I desire with all my heart” (1 Celano 22).


            St Francis combined elements of Luke and Matthew in Chapter XIV of his Earlier Rule: How the Brothers Should Go through the World. “When the brothers go through the world, let them take nothing for the journey, neither knapsack, nor purse, nor bread, nor money, nor walking stick. Whatever house they enter, let them first say: Peace to this house. They may eat and drink what is placed before them for as long as they stay in that house”.


            All Christians can identify with the seventy-two disciples, especially lay people, “whose particular vocation places them in the midst of the world and in charge of the most varied temporal tasks. They must for this very reason exercise a very special form of evangelization.” (Evangelii nuntiandi, 70).


            Secular Franciscans “should go forth as witnesses and instruments of the Church’s mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by their life and words” (Rule 6). “Their preferred apostolate is personal witness in the environment in which they live and service for building up the Kingdom of God within the situations of this world” (General Constitutions 17.1).


            The motive for sending out the disciples is that “the labourers are few” (Lk 10:2).


            Their orders are explicit. They are to be: humble (“lambs among wolves”, Lk 10:3), poor (“carry no purse”, Lk 10:4), bearers of peace (“Peace to this house!”, Lk 10:5-6), contented (“take what they offer”, Lk 10:7), and interested in the needy (“cure the sick”, 10:8). They are to announce the kingdom (“say, ‘The Kingdom of God is very near to you’”, 10:9), and to repeat their message even if it is rejected (“Yet be sure of this, the kingdom of God is very near”, Lk 10:11).


            Those who welcome the missionaries are reminded that “the labourer deserves his wages” (Lk 10:7), so not even the primitive Church could ignore its economic requirements.


            Those who do not welcome the missionaries are warned that “it will not go as hard with Sodom as with that town” (Lk 10:12) - a terrible threat!

            So Luke insists on two requirements of the missionary disciples:


            First, they are not to be worried about their earthly future. They are to live as poor people, but their poverty is to give the clear message that the kingdom of God is near.


            Secondly, they are to behave in a particular way towards those who welcome them. They must be obviously pilgrims on their way to the Kingdom of God, and satisfied with the hospitality that they receive. “Eat what is set before you” (Lk 10:8). It may not be so good, or it may be most enjoyable.


            St Francis counseled two ways of living spiritually among the Saracens and non-believers. His advice is particularly relevant in our present multi cultural society, especially in our living with Muslims, today’s “Saracens”:


            One way is not to engage in arguments or disputes but to be subject to every human creature for God’s sake and to acknowledge that they are Christians.


            The other way is to announce the Word of God, when they see it pleases the Lord, in order that [unbelievers] may believe in almighty God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Creator of all, the Son, the Redeemer and Saviour, and be baptized and become Christians.” (The Earlier Rule, Chapter XVI).


            The Second Vatican Council had a word to say about the harvest being rich but the labourers few (Lk 10:2). The bishops addressed all Christians, especially the laity, entreating them in the Lord, to “give a glad, generous, and prompt response to the voice of Christ, who is giving them an especially urgent invitation at this moment, and to the impulse of the Holy Spirit. Younger people should feel that this call has been directed to them in particular, and they should respond to it eagerly and generously” (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, Apostolicam Actuositatem, 33).


            Let us earnestly pray that all Christians, young and old, will associate themselves with Jesus in his saving mission, which is entrusted to every baptized person, and in a special way to the bishops.           


 Carl Schafer OFM

National Assistant SFO – Oceania