Fr Billy Swan
Dear friends. In the 1990’s, pop singer Holly Johnson sang a song called ‘Americanos’. The chorus of the song included the line: ‘In the land of the free, you can be what you want to be’. This might well sum up the culture of our time that places increasing emphasis on self-invention or the cult of the self.
Today’s Gospel from Luke is about the appointment and commissioning by Jesus of his disciples as he sends them out into the world on mission. There are many instructions he gives them and many things we could say about this Gospel passage. Here I limit myself to one which perhaps is the most important. In a nutshell, the Christian life is not about me. I am not a Christian for myself. I am not at the center. This is the direct opposite of the cult of the self but rather the service of the other.
It is interesting to note that in the word ‘sin’, in the middle or at the center is ‘I’. Sin results in me and my needs being the measure of everything. We live in a culture where there is huge emphasis on the ‘self’ and on ‘me’. Even the new word ‘selfies’ describes not just the craze of taking pictures on our mobile phones with ourselves in them but a culture that places great importance on the self or individual. We can hear things like ‘Mass or the Church does nothing for me’. Here is another example how we can see everything in terms of what benefits me or not. In our education programmes, we use language like ‘achieving our potential’, being ‘the best you can be’, ‘living our dreams’ and ‘being successful’. Now while all these ideals are good in themselves, for us they are never meant to be the most important thing. For us as Christians, the most important thing is the kingdom of God and to play our part in bringing it about.
For the first disciples, Jesus had called them, loved them and forgave them in a way that had profoundly changed them. His influence had left an indelible mark on them and they would never be the same again. But at a certain point, he sent them out with his power to do good, to contribute positively and to share what they had received. ‘As the Father has sent me, so am I sending you’ (John 201:21). In the same manner, each one of us have received special gifts from our baptism and confirmation. Each of us are dearly loved by God, are known by God and are infinitely important to Him. He wants us to be happy. But it doesn’t stop there. We too are sent out to contribute positively in some way for a good greater than ourselves and to become involved in making the world a better place. It doesn’t mean that we need to be specialists or experts in anything. We might feel that because of our age or health we are not up to contributing much. But the Gospel today reminds us that once we give with a loving heart and do so in Christ’s name then a power is unleashed that is greater than what we can achieve alone and much more than we can hope for or imagine.
God didn’t need to involve us in the saving of the world but he did. All he asks is that we share his love for the world, for people and join his in his desire to save them. Don’t get tangled up in the culture of the self. Our own desires and concerns are important but they are not the measure of everything and there is a freedom in realising that. Be ambitious for a better world and not just ourselves. Get out there. Get involved. Give the best you have. Some good is left undone today until we do it in Jesus’ name. Go and enter the Lord's vineyard.