14th Sunday of Ordinary Time


I wonder how the seventy-two disciples reacted when Jesus told them that he was sending them out as “Lambs among wolves.” They were probably not that excited.  They may have even pointed out to the Lord that the last time the wolves played the lambs the game was not even close.  You might even say it was a slaughter. Ba-dum-bum.

Jesus tells them to go out to announce that he, this nobody from nowhere is coming to their town.  They are to go with, “no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way.” They will be ill- supplied and ill prepared; as vulnerable as they could be.  But I guess Jesus had no choice.  How else do you announce the man of peace except peacefully?  How else do you announce the poor man except in poverty?  How else do you announce the simple man except in simplicity?

Surely the mission could not succeed.  They are to bring only one thing, peace.  If the peace is accepted is accepted it will rest on that person, if rejected it will return to the disciple.  Jesus trusts that the only thing they need is to announce the coming of peace because he knows that ultimately that is all we desire.  From the depths of our being we cry out for peace and nothing satisfies that peace among all that we create and earn.  Only the peace that comes from on high, only the divine gift will suffice, will settle that restless yearning. 

It is hard to imagine going out in our days as lambs among wolves; to approach the world without our sandals. In every aspect of our life, we strive to be as well prepared as possible, looking to seize any advantage possible.  We are built to succeed and to win.  “Lambs among wolves” is recipe for losing.  We dare not go on our missions like that.  Just think of the word innocent.  That which was always a virtue now has a negative connotation.  No one would want to be considered an innocent.  It is a synonym for naïve, ill-prepared or loser.  No one wants to be called innocent (unless you are on trial.)

Indeed, we are attuned to how we gain an advantage over each other.  It is friction on which the world gets its energy.  When there is division or a rupture in our politics, everyone conjectures, “Does this help the Republicans?” or “Does this help the Democrats?”  No one even bothers to ask how we can heal the division and bridge the rupture.  It is all a question of leverage and advantage.   We are constantly pitted against one another.

But what if we dared to go out as lambs among wolves?  What would it lead to?  What if our politics were based on reconciliation and not division?  What if we could surmount what is best for 51% to consider what is best for 100%.  What if a person’s worth was measured by their inherent dignity and not their acquired power?  Is that being too innocent?

What if in our economics we went out as lambs among wolves.  The goal of the system would not be a zero sum game of winners and losers but it would be an economy that served the people and not a people who served the economy.  The Common Good and how the poor are affected would be our primary concern.  This is what Pope Francis challenges us with time and again.  Would we dare to walk without sandals, to be that innocent?

Even our educational system is based on rivalry and competition.  How could it possibly be that if one child does poorly on a test, it is good news for the other?  We measure and divide but never transform the system.  Our strength should be a gift to someone else’s weakness and their weakness should help to form us.  If even our children are forced to be against one another, where will they learn the value of coming together?

And yet, this kind of oneness, this brandishing peace as your only weapon will work.  And I have proof. The disciples returned rejoicing because they had power over disease and even over demons.  They succeeded despite being ill prepared and ill-supplied because there is something divine in us, the one Spirit we share that calls us together.  There is a desire for peace stronger than the short termed advantage of division.  We recognize we are God’s and walls come a tumbling down.  When we give ourselves over to peace, we find a strength we never knew we possessed.

Then Jesus says something fascinating.  “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky.”  The gift of peace, poverty and simplicity has defeated Satan.  As the great French philosopher Rene Girard has noted, rivalry and competition are exactly the tools Satan uses to divide the world.  When we rely on advantage and leverage, when we act as wolves among lambs, we are doing exactly that which Satan counted on us doing.  But if instead we choose innocence, oneness and the peace that comes only from Christ, Satan’s day is ended and we will reign in the peaceful love of Jesus Christ.