•Isaiah 66:10-14C • Galatians 6:14-18 • Luke 10:1-12, 17-20•
Weekly Scripture Readings:14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
This 4th of July weekend has become a time for family picnics, days at the lake, parades and renewal of our national identity and pride. Typical speeches will honor military veterans who fought “to protect our freedoms or “were wounded or died in defense of our nation”. There will be little or no mention of the fact that we have been engaged in war now for fifteen years. War has become our national posture.
We who gather for Eucharist on this 4th of July weekend do so for a significantly different purpose. We gather seeking to grow in our understanding of Jesus and why he “appointed seventy-two others (beyond the twelve disciples) whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit”. I hope to provide you some paths toward greater understanding of him through this text.
The details from Luke’s gospel are significantly symbolic. Luke’s “every town and place” is telling us the message of Jesus is intended for all people. I hear that to mean all the many diverse tribes and cultures spread across the continents of this planet.
“The seventy-two” are sent “as lambs among wolves”. Their mission is dangerous. They are to be agents of nonviolence in a violent world. So too are we!
As Jesus and his disciples walked from village to village, they often did not know where they would be staying at night. They relied on the hospitality of people to provide food and shelter for the night. “In whatever house you enter” bring “peace”. They were to be agents of peace. So too are we.
Upon their return Jesus said to “the seventy-two, I have observed Satan falling from the sky” and “given you power to tread upon serpents and scorpions and the full force of the enemy”. Because of the persistence of “the seventy-two” in being non-violent people and bearers of peace, the power of evil and violence in Palestine was collapsing. So it is when we imitate the persistence of “the seventy-two” in being nonviolent bearers of peace.
The task facing us today is far greater than that faced by “the seventy-two”. Once the Roman Empire became the Holy Roman Empire and the Church assumed a position of power, the founding charter of Christianity expressed in this text was diluted. Saints Augustine and Ambrose provided moral justification for Christians to engage in war.
Their theory claims that under qualifying criteria, wars or at least some wars, and all the killing and destruction they entail, are good, virtuous and pleasing in the sight of God. Today it is known as “Just War Theory”. Every war is considered “just” from the perspective of those waging it. George W. Bush invoked this theory to justify our current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Barak Obama did the same in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.
As we celebrate this 4th of July there are many veterans among us from all of our many wars since 1941. Veterans of past wars “were expected to deny their own pain, ignore what war taught them, and take up their civil status as heroes.” Have you noticed how veterans don’t talk about what they have done, experienced or learned? Veterans come back different and often desperate. “The majority of their wounds are invisible”. It is not our right to judge or condemn our sons or daughters who are sincere in their intent to serve and protect our country. We love them!
Yet our love for them ought not lead us to deny that killing is always wrong. Killing violates the will of God and darkens the soul of the killer. So without hesitation I set aside the arguments of Augustine and Ambrose. The “Just War Theory” is never legitimate for those of us who are sincere in accepting the commission given to “the seventy-two”. Our task is to hasten the end of our current wars and to do all we can to maintain peace without arms and without killing.