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The lesson to draw from saints sent in pairs

St Perpetua AND St Felicity
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And what we can learn about the original Greek of the word "evangelization"

At that time the Lord appointed seventy-two others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. —Luke 10:1

When we think about the great saints of our Catholic tradition, we see that they very often come in pairs: Paul and Barnabas, Perpetua and Felicity, Benedict and Scholastica, Francis and Clare of Assisi, Brigid and Catherine of Sweden, Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal, Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac, to name only a few examples. Even within my own Salvatorian community, we often see our founder, Venerable Francis Jordan, paired with Father Bonaventure Lüthen (of the Salvatorian priests and brothers) and Blessed Mary of the Apostles (of the Salvatorian Sisters). Of course, to the list of martyrs and consecrated religious women and men, we can also add Isidore the Farmer and his wife, Maria; Louis and Zelie Martin; or Blesseds Luigi and Maria Quattrochi as examples of all those married couples who proclaimed and lived their faith together through the daily witness of their marriage vows and family commitments.

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus sends out 72 of his disciples in pairs to “every town and place he intended to visit.” These disciples were to let the local communities know that Jesus and the Apostles were on their way. They were being asked to evangelize—to announce the “Good News” that Jesus was coming. (Remember that our word “evangelize” comes from the Greek word evangelion, which originally meant a joyful announcement—good news—that a king was coming to visit or that a military battle had been won.)

And the message, the evangelion, that Jesus had instructed the disciples to proclaim was simple: “The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.” Here. Now. 

The disciples’ journey and their announcement of the coming of the Kingdom—and of the King himself—was the action. But what was bubbling beneath the surface, within the hearts and souls of those early evangelizers? It was their faith in and relationship with Jesus and with one another.

When Jesus sent out those pairs of disciples as “laborers for his harvest,” he wanted them to work together, to share their faith, support and encourage one another when the journey was difficult, and to witness to the fact that being a disciple of Jesus calls for collaboration and community.

This is why we see so many saints—including the founders of so many religious communities—working collaboratively to fulfill their mission. This gospel passage reminds us that living our faith with integrity means that we express what is going on in the depths of our hearts and souls in and through our words and actions. We can’t live out our faith or exercise our ministries within a vacuum. 

In this passage, we also hear Jesus teaching an important lesson in relationships by urging the disciples to pay attention to the response of the people they were visiting. Yes, they were to share their message about the coming of the Kingdom, but he also wanted them to watch and listen—to be in relationship with the people they visited, to be sensitive to how the Good News was being received and to act accordingly. Keeping this in mind not only helps to be sure that the Gospel is being proclaimed effectively, but it also allows us to be sensitive the “signs of the times” and the needs of the communities we are called to serve.

In the end, the mission of the disciples was to proclaim the faith they held within their hearts and invite others—all others—to join them in building up God’s Kingdom as faithful disciples. Faith and action came together in relationships—the communion and community of the Kingdom of God.

The gospel demands that we, as Christians—collaborative disciples proclaiming our interior faith through our public works of mercy and justice—make ourselves available for the task of making the Kingdom a reality within our families, parishes, communities, and country. 

How are you building relationships with others? How does our faith form and inform your relationships? 

Are you open to sharing your faith with members of your family? Your parish?

How does this Gospel passage challenge you to be more open about your beliefs and relationship with Christ?

Words of Wisdom: “Within the People of God, there is a specific mission awaiting each one. Because the needs of the ‘harvest’ are so great, all the members of God’s People must grow in the awareness of ‘being called.’”—Pope Saint John Paul II

 

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