All the way to justice is justice!

October 18, 1999

2 Timothy 4, 10-17b + Luke 10, 1-9

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Today is the Feast of St. Luke, evangelist, author of the Gospel we are reading in this season for the daily masses.

With our reverence for sacred scripture, it is sometimes easy to lose sight of the fact that the Bible records the stories of real people -- with names, lives, histories. The stories seem so much bigger than life, we forget that it is a record of God's saving action in the lives of ordinary people -- who in responding to grace, transcended the "ordinariness" of their lives to bring eternal truth to light for all people.

Paul writes to Timothy from prison in Rome, perhaps in the last days of his life. He tells Timothy that he has been deserted by many, but that the Lord stood by him and gave him strength.

Today's Gospel returns to the ordination and commissioning of the 72 preachers to Israel of the Reign of God. They are called to go and bear witness of what they have seen and heard. They are to go in poverty, and to humbly be content with whatever they are given. They are to heal the sick and announce that the Reign of God is near. Sent to a conquered, oppressed, and impoverished people, these "Delegates of the Word", together with the Apostles, were the first Christian evangelizers, and have set an example for all of us to follow.

How do we know the Reign of God is upon us? Christ has said so, and sent us forth to teach this. But that was 2,000 years ago, how can the Reign by "near" for so very long? It's right here, under our noses, only our blindness caused by sin prevents us from seeing its Beauty and Glory. It is a great work in which we are engaged -- the job won't be finished in our lifetimes, and probably not in the days of our great grandchildren. This should not be a sign of despair, but rather we should be content with the part of the task that is set before us. Sure, I long to see a truly just and humane society, but if this is not to be fully realized in my lifetime, I will nevertheless see that truly just and humane society -- the Reign of God -- as I go about my days doing the small little bits of the tasks that are appointed for me. St. Catherine of Siena was often quoted by Dorothy Day -- "All the way to heaven is heaven." This could easily be retranslated as 'all the way to justice is justice," or "all the way to peace is peace," or "all the way to mercy is mercy."

In Luke's day, human beings were nailed to crosses at the edges of cities, and people were bought and sold as commodities. We are not so very different today, people are crucified every day on crosses of Dollars and Deutschmarks, and if you want to buy people as commodities, they are for sale everywhere. Slave labor is so common in the modern world, we think nothing at all of buying slave-made products. I am no better than anyone else in this regard. The shirt I am wearing most likely was made by exploited labor -- in Qatar. Should I buy a sewing machine and learn to sew? Should I help organize a cooperative of tailors here in Oklahoma City?

What should I do to help free the slaves I sustain by my purchases, by my sins of omission and commision?

Luke's Gospel is often called the "Gospel of the Poor," because of its consistent portrayal of Jesus' tender concern for all who had been rejected -- the poor, women, foreigners, tax collectors and publicans. May the words of his Gospel, which reverberate with great intensity even into our own era, remind us continually of our need for evangelism and conversion, and may we be ever mindful of our vocation as evangelizers and peacemakers.

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