Memorial of Ss Timothy and Titus
2 Timothy 1:1-8; Ps 95; Luke 10:1-9
Imagine going out for a long hike up a mountain. There’s definitely excitement at start with much promise and much to look forward to. I remember times when we used to start hikes singing, laughing and hopping about. Then reality sets in. We start getting tired, shoulders start to ache from the loads on our backs. We start getting hungry, our legs get a little sore from all the climbing. Then as we progress, things get steadily worse. It rains, the insects start coming and when we stop to camp for the night, our tents are soggy and we can’t get a good fire going to cook. We feel miserable and wonder why we started in the first place. Why the change? The novelty is nice at the start but the reality of the hike makes us less enthusiastic.
We often talk about honeymoon periods in jobs and relationships. What happens when reality really sets in?
Consider the Gospels from yesterday (Mark 1:14-20) and today and compare the call of the disciples with their sending. Novelty definitely comes once in a while. Yesterday, the novelty of the call to be ‘fishers of men’ must have sounded most impressive and inspiring to the four by the lakeside. There was a sense of purpose and a sense of immediacy as one gets up to follow to do the Lords work, even though you don’t get what it involves. The rush of discovery and the euphoria of doing something new remains for a while. That’s great.
However, as the movie title goes, Reality Bites. And reality is what we live with everyday. Today’s Gospel reminds us of that and the Lord gives very clear reminders of the realities that we face. The first is the need to answer in the first place – that the harvest is rich but the labourers few. There’s much to be done but no shortcuts and laziness should be tolerated. The reality is that there aren’t enough people willing to do what needs to be done. And ‘Why us?’ we might ask – but I can imagine the Lord looking back at us saying ‘Why not?’ Just because other’s aren’t responding doesn’t mean that we have to follow their example. We know we have to get down to it.
And work we have to, amidst the reality of difficulty. The second part shows what we’re up against. We’re sent like sheep among wolves, indicating potential problems in doing what we need to do and the possible dangerous encounters from time to time.There’s also the invitation to be meek and humble amidst the world of aggression. Seems counter intuitive but that seems to be what’s asked of us. But it gets worse – the later instructions are harder still. Don’t bring anything for the road except one’s complete trust and dependence on God’s providence. Can we really go out without anything? What happened to being prepared? And to add to this, we’re told not to salute anyone along the way, to be single minded in our purpose and not to allow anyone we meet along the way to distract us from our goal.
And what goal might that be? We haven’t reached the actual work. We’re told that we’re to bring peace, healing and hope. That’s a tall order isn’t it? “Peace to this house!” aren’t just words – we’re expected to be the peacemakers as we move among others, to help to bring peace to those who need it. We know that’s difficult – anyone who’s tried to separate people who were fighting can tel you that. And we need to be at peace with ourselves first to bring that to others. After that, we’re called to bring healing. Again, there needs to be confidence in the call and in our ability to heal others through the Lord’s providence. And healing not just physically but spiritually. And then as if that’s not enough, we’re called to bring hope to others. “The kingdom of God is very near to you” says the Lord and we need to tell that to others and mean it. Do we really mean it when we say things like that?
In all this, deep faith is required. A faith that allows us to be willing to accept the difficulties, discomforts and disappointments that the call brings. We have to realise that we aren’t quite doing what we want to do anymore when we accept the call to follow the Lord. In doing so we are trusting of the Lord’s presence even when he is seemingly absent. We also need to know that the Lord who calls will provide. That’s the hard part. We see St Paul writing to Timothy, telling him to fan into flames his gifts. That’s said to us to – about the need to fan the flames of our faith and our gifts so that can go forth and bring others the Good News.
I always wondered how the disciples felt after they left. I’m sure they were excited and not a little scared. But also hopeful. And perhaps that’s what we have – to have the hope in order to bring the hope. Isn’t that what keeps us going. My old school motto was Auspicium Melioris Aevi, (Hope for a better age) and that sums up the attitudes of good disciples well. In good times and bad, our hope that is grounded in faith would allow us to fan the flames of our gifts so that we can bear the hardships that inevitably crop up after the honeymoon period is over. It keeps us on the road when the novelty wears out. It keeps us hoping as we trudge along the dark jungles to reach the summit, knowing that the summit will be reached sometime. It keeps us faithful as true bearers of the Good News.