My prayer to God for these newly ordained men is exactly what we asked for in the collect: Grant your faithful a holy joy. What is this “holy joy” about which the liturgy speaks? I believe it is something deeply connected to the mission to which you are called. Today’s readings bring us to the heart of our vocation.
- Lambs in the midst of wolves
In the passage in which Christ sends the 72 disciples, He appears provocative. What is he asking? To go like lambs among wolves! And a lamb among wolves is done for, it has no hope! He asks them to go without a bag, with no sack or sandals, which are necessary things for those who are beginning a journey. Without those things you cannot go very far. He asks them not to stop with anybody along the way, therefore depriving them of even a little bit of innocent consolation! Christ asks us to undertake a mission with no guarantees or certainties, and even without the necessary things one would need to carry it out. Actually, the only certainty they are left with is that they cannot make it! It is a paradoxical passage. Christ sends his disciples on a mission and for this mission, he sets an impossible condition: being lambs in the midst of wolves.
- The true victory
Why is He asking them to undertake an impossible mission? Does He want to see the defeat of his disciples? Not at all. Christ desired a victory for his disciples back then, and he desires it for His disciples today. Brothers, Christ wants your lives to be victorious.
Because of this very desire of victory, at the beginning of your mission, He wants to clarify what kind of victory it will be. Christ entrusts a mission to us that is disproportionate to our strengths. He does not ask us to be good fellows or to convert many people, to gain some success or at least to avoid certain disastrous setbacks. We might even be successful in that respect! But that would be a rather small victory, because it would simply be our victory. It would be only our victory. The impossible conditions Christ sets for the disciples are impossible precisely because it is clear that the victory we aim for – the fulfilment of our mission – is Christ’s victory, not His disciples’. In our mission, it’s not up to us to win; Christ needs to win in us, through us.
- Christ in us
What is this victory of Christ in us? St Paul says it clearly: my pride is the cross of Jesus, and I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. Christ’s victory in us begins when the love through which He has reached us becomes everything for us, when it becomes the true aspiration for which we live.
Christ’s victory in us is the victory of His love in our life (of His love which is the love of the crucified, which will always be a love that points to the cross). Christ’s victory in us happens when Christ dominates everything within us, when every space, every thought and judgement, every gesture of affection, every desire, every nostalgia, find their reference in Him. Christ’s victory in us is also the victory of our mission, because if Christ becomes all in us, then through us, He will walk the streets of this world, He will meet the people we meet, He will know, He will love, He will forgive whomever we run into. He will continue to give His life for men in the offering of our life. And we will see Him victoriously grow in the hearts of many people!
- The holy joy
This is how Christ reveals the possibility of a holy joy. He asks his disciples to undertake an impossible mission so that they cannot go after an earthly goal (success, tranquillity, recognition, security, etc.) Our heart does not find joy in small things. On the contrary, it can only find slavery in those things. Our small victories can make us slaves. Christ invites his disciples to look for his love above all things, as a victory over everything. Rejoice that your names are written in heaven. Find joy in being in God’s heart. When the disciple is defined exclusively by his seeking of the love of Christ, corresponding to His love, for himself and for the world, then he is free from everything (nothing is going to harm you, they can take everything away from us but the possibility of loving Christ) and he can experience the unfathomable joy of discovering Christ victorious within himself. This is the holy joy we strive for. It is the joy of Christ in us. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.