Luke 10:1-12, 17-20
Gospel, not Gimmicks
by Rev. Richard A. Miserendino
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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Luke writes to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.

There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus and said, "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"  Jesus said to him, "What is written in the law?  How do you read it?"  He said in reply, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself."  He replied to him, "You have answered correctly; do this and you will live."

But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"  Jesus replied, "A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.  They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.  A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.  Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.  But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight.  He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them.  Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn, and cared for him.  The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, 'Take care of him.  If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.'  Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers' victim?"  He answered, "The one who treated him with mercy."  Jesus said to him,  "Go and do likewise."

A glance at Jesus’ business model in our Gospel this Sunday (Lk 10:1-12, 17-20) gives the impression that he wouldn’t fare well on “Shark Tank.” The hit show is all about entrepreneurs hawking the latest gadget to improve our lives. To win the support of a wealthy “shark,” one needs a sales pitch, a few neat gizmos to sell and the team to make it all possible.

In contrast, Jesus sends the 72 out today with meager instructions and minimal gear. In fact, he even tells them that he’s sending them like lambs among wolves — not particularly encouraging. Even the selection criteria isn’t overly rigorous, nor is there a specific destination in each village for each pair of disciples. By worldly standards, this would not seem a model for successful business, much less evangelization. If Jesus can’t win a few sharks, how would he ever hope to win entire towns?

And yet, then we see the results at the end of the Gospel passage: the effort is a wild success and the disciples can barely contain their exuberance that God’s power is at work in them. What gives?

The key is found in the last line for today: “Rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” What does Jesus come to bring? Nothing short of eternal life in God. The point is that Jesus isn’t a salesperson. He’s not interested in profit margins or snappy slogans, nor is he particularly keen on worldly comfort or success. He doesn’t want our wallets, he wants our hearts. As such, he exhorts the disciples to keep their eyes on the prize: eternal life. This shows us that Christianity isn’t about strategies for better living here and now or a series of “life hacks.” Sure, virtuous living has its own rewards. Sure, the disciples have some neat skills and powers, but they only matter if they’re for one goal: eternal life. What God wants is us to get to heaven.

All this brings us back to Jesus’ method: He sends the disciples out with next to nothing so that it’s abundantly clear they aren’t “selling something.” No gimmicks, just truth, mercy and grace. Further, their frugality makes clear that what they have to offer is not their own innovation, but a gift from God. They heal body and soul without medicine as only God can do. They inspire hope and speak authoritatively as only God can do. And their vulnerability, being like sheep among wolves, shows their rock-solid confidence in providence, a trust that God’s love and mercy is stronger than death itself. The power of their preaching comes not from things or cleverness, but because they are rooted in faith.

This speaks to us: We are the 72 as well. By our baptism and confirmation, we are given God’s power and might to share the Gospel with authority, daily. But all too often, we fall prey to the temptation that we need to have the right strategy, or the right words to say, or the right gear or gadgets or programs to “sell” Jesus. Yet, the reality remains: We don’t have to have all the answers or the right stuff. We just need a relationship with Jesus and a willingness to share it. The best evangelical phrase of all time has always been a humble “come and see.” A little faith and courage to start the conversation with those we meet goes a long way, be it in the office, the gym or the grocery store. A simple promise of prayers or an invitation to church will do. After all, in Christ our names are written in heaven and we have riches in God that surpass all the gems of the world. With good news like that, we’d be crazy not to share it. There’s not a shark in the world who could reasonably pass up a deal like that.