Luke 10:1-12, 17-20
Leap into Heaven
by Rev. William P. Saunders
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."

July 20, we mark the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s lunar landing. Astronaut Neil Armstrong, who took the first step on the surface of the moon, declared, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” In a spiritual light, we could say Our Lord, by his cross and resurrection, has taken “the great leap” for us, freeing us from slavery to sin, restoring the life of grace and opening the gates of heaven.  Each of us, however, must take it one step each day as a faithful disciple, walking with Our Lord, the Good Shepherd, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

In our Gospel passage today, Our Lord presented clear directions to keep us on the right path. First, a disciple must not be weighed down. Jesus said, “Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals.” Too often, a person allows something to weigh him down, which in turn prevents him from being a fully committed disciple. For example, financial concerns — the pursuit of wealth — could weigh us down so much that wealth becomes the idol: Wealth management overtakes spiritual management.

The “fear of missing out” may weigh us down and take control of our lives, so that we are living for the moment, seeking instant gratification and following the crowd — why else do Americans spend an average of nine hours a day on “screen time?” Or, the open wounds of past hurts may weigh us down, eclipsing the blessings of the present.

Instead, a disciple should use the gifts of this world — wealth in the broadest sense — for the glory of God, the good of others through charitable works, and for oneself. The disciple enjoys life, but takes time in prayer and worship to dwell in the Lord’s presence; recognizes past hurts but forgives, allowing the wound to heal and blocking Satan’s desire to have us live in the hurtful past, not the blessedness of the present.

Second, the disciple must “shake off” rejection, like dust from the feet. Here Our Lord used a Semitic expression, meaning, “Don’t take to heart someone else’s rejection. Don’t let the insults or mean spiritedness crush your spirit. You can’t force someone else to believe, and in the end everyone must account for his own life. So don’t be discouraged. Carry on.”

Third, the disciple needs to have good, faithful companions. Notice that Jesus sent them out in pairs. A faithful companion gives encouragement and provides honest counsel, direction and correction. A disciple needs a faithful confidant with whom he can seek advice, open his heart and vent; this person does not desire to gossip or blab to everyone else. No, this confidant is the trusted, wise friend who accompanies us on our journey — for example, a priest, spouse or proven friend. Proverbs 18:19 teaches, “A brother is a better defense than a strong city, and a friend is like the bars of a castle.”

Fourth, the disciple must be prepared to face the enemy. Our Lord said he was sending them out like “lambs among wolves.” However, he also reminded them that they would have the power to tread upon serpents and scorpions. Keep in mind, serpent always refers to the devil and his demons, and scorpions — vicious creatures easily provoked to attack with a terrible, painful sting — refer to evil people, who act in kind. Interestingly, it is said if scorpions are caged together, they will attack and kill each other, just as evil people ultimately destroy each other and themselves. Nevertheless, the faithful disciple will be victorious in the Lord: Satan will fall like lightening, and the full force of the enemy will not be able to harm us.

In the end, having taken so many small steps each day with Our Lord and relying on his grace, the time will come for the final launch. We will take the leap to heaven, to be embraced by Our Lord and see our names written in the book of life.

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