If someone is going to speak on your behalf, you want them to be well prepared. This is particularly true in the business world. Good companies spend tremendous resources on their employees. They equip them. They ensure that their employees have all the necessary tools for success. For if the laborer is ill equipped, the company mission is imperiled.
In the Gospel this weekend (Lk 10:1-12, 17-20) Jesus seems to have a bad business model. He commissions 72 disciples to go ahead of him into the towns he will visit. They are to announce his coming and witness to the good news he brings. Presumably then, Jesus will equip them for this task. But here is their equipment: “Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals.” This is unexpected. No company credit card. No company car. Is this a plan for success? A weak messenger is a weak message. Does Jesus know what he is doing? Is he simply a poor manager, a stingy executive? No, Jesus is not cutting corners. He has a strategy, but it is strange. He summarizes it this way: “behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.” What a recipe for failure!
We know the maxim: the medium is the message. But this gets interesting when the message is Jesus. For Jesus is the lamb of sacrifice (1Cor 5:7; 1Pt 1:19; Rev 5:12). Jesus is the Son of God, stripped of the form of God, becoming poor that we might become rich (2Cor 8:9; Phil 2:6-8). Jesus is the lamb among wolves. His witnesses must be the same. The 72 disciples are sent out poor and innocent into a devouring world. They are uniquely equipped. They are supplied with poverty, witnessing to the impoverished Christ. They are groomed in vulnerability, testifying to him who came to be wounded. They have everything they need to accomplish their mission…because they have nothing.
St. Paul, the greatest evangelist, understood this strategy. In our second reading (Gal 6:14-18), St. Paul boasts only of the Cross “through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” For St. Paul, being a witness to the Savior means being detached from everything else (Phl 3:7-11). It means being a lamb among wolves. It requires unusual equipment: “I bear the marks of Jesus on my body.”
It doesn’t take a lot to be a witness to Christ. It takes everything. Evangelists are not prepared by the world. They are prepared by the Cross. They are effective, not because of what they have, but because of what they are detached from. The world needs more evangelists. Ironically, the world needs more men and women crucified to the world.
Father George K. Nixon serves as assistant pastor at St. Philip Parish, Greenville. Ordained in 2011, he holds a licentiate in sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. “Verbum Domini” is a series of Father Nixon’s reflections on the Scriptures.