Happy 4th of July! It is fitting that the Gospel and homily I heard yesterday coincides with this independence day holiday.
For those that need a refresher, yesterday’s Gospel reading was from the Gospel of Luke. Jesus was preparing 72 disciples to go out on mission ahead of him, telling of the Good News that Jesus had to share. He gives them specific instructions about what to bring, or rather, all the things they were to leave behind. They were not to bring money or baggage. They weren’t even permitted shoes! Why do you think Jesus was so explicit about the fact that these travelers were not permitted to bring anything other people would find necessary for travel?
Our priest had an interesting take on that question. Usually when I hear this reading I hear all the things the disciples had to do without. It is a lesson in simplicity, in solidarity with the poor and a call to let go of my clutch on material possessions. This is absolutely a fine message to interpret from this Gospel. Our priest, however, went another direction.
He asked us to think about what we had to give. We were each put on earth with something to give. Consider the disciples. They were not allowed to take things that would have possibly made their journey more comfortable – money for an inn, shoes to make traveling easier, extra clothes in the event that extra clothes would be desired or necessary. But he didn’t send them empty handed. They had their message, the courage of their conviction and their passion for their faith.
What they had seen and heard was convincing enough they felt compelled to share it with others. If they weren’t absolutely convinced in the person and message of Jesus, why would they travel with no money, feeling no anxiety about where they were going to sleep? Why would they travel with no shoes, harboring no worry about the length of the journey? Why would they bring no extra garments, not knowing what kind of weather or road conditions they would encounter?
The disciples trusted that what they had to give would be enough to take care of them. How many of us can say we feel the same? Do we give first and then graciously accept what is given to us? Or do we wait until we have received enough, only then to share what we consider extra? Another way of thinking about it is to consider whether Sunday is at the beginning or the end of your financial week. Do you give to God first (making Sunday the first day of the week), or do you wait to see what is left (making Sunday the last day of your week).
It is my opinion that the founding fathers were looking first to give and then to receive. They wanted to give our people a freedom they had not known. They wanted to give citizens basic rights and privileges. They hoped to give the generations to come a country and government that had the people’s best interests at heart. They had a vision where citizens came together, giving to one another, so that in each other’s giving we all could reap a bountiful harvest of freedom, protection, representation and basic rights.
On this July 4, 2016, I hope that you are able to find a few quiet moments to thank those who have answered this call to give before receiving. May our country continue to flourish, holding true to the vision that brought it into being.
“In every way I have shown you that by hard work of that sort we must help the weak, and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” – Acts 20:35