“Two things I ask of thee; deny them not to me before I die. Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me.” (Proverbs 30:7-8)
God does not give anyone an assignment without also giving him or her the necessary instruments to accomplish the task. In today’s Gospel passage, we see Jesus sending out the Twelve on a mission and for this Jesus gives them the following: Power, Authority over all demons, Ability to cure diseases and Contentment. Of course, it is easy to read this passage without recognizing this last instrument; contentment.
By asking them to “take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics,” (Luke 9:3) Jesus was basically teaching them or rather giving them the power of contentment. Truly, contentment, (a virtue which the Church concretely expresses with the vow of poverty) is such an all-important instrument for ministry. Show me a minister who lacks this virtue and I will sure you one who would soon turn the worship of God into the worship of mammon.
The temptation to be rich; to gather and to grab is always an undeniable force for anyone who opts to serve God. Jesus referred to this temptation as the thorns which grew up to choke the good seed thereby preventing it from bearing fruits. (Cf. Luke 8:14). Satan even offered to give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if only He would agree to bow. Jesus clearly knew that the mission of the disciples would be greatly hampered if they fell for this same temptation, hence He warned them to take nothing.
From my year of pastoral experience, I have come to realize that proclaiming the Gospel goes beyond merely standing on the pulpit to preach; sometimes, the Gospel that God’s people need is, in the words of Jesus, “you give them something to eat.” (Matthew 14:16) While we must condemn excessive luxurious lifestyles, we cannot fail to notice how the minister struggles to help the poorest of the poor who see him as their last hope especially when in crisis.
This is why the prayer in today’s first reading is such a perfect prayer for anyone called to the ministry. There are actually three strong prayer points contained in this reading. One, that God will keep us away from telling lies and from falsehood; that we do not become hypocrites, pretending to be caring for souls while being interested only in what we can get from them. Second, that God should keep us from poverty and at the same time, keep us away from riches. Thirdly, that God should give us the food that we need – not simply what we want (crave or desire) but what we need to be effective.
I know how it feels to become depressed (or frustrated) in ministry as a result of hunger which soon translates to anger at one’s flock and bitterness against the authorities. Trust me, it is not funny at all. As our first reading puts it, “lest I be poor, and steal, and profane the name of my God.” On the other hand, there is a certain level of wealth that becomes a great distraction to the minister himself and a scandal to those he ministers to.
Truly, virtue lies in the middle and the key to striking this balance is contentment; being grateful for whatever comes and trusting completely in God’s providence. Happiness comes not from what we have but from knowing that God will always make a way; that He is a Father who will never give His children stone when He knows they need bread.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, teach me to be content as I spread the faith to the world. Amen.
*Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Wednesday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: Proverbs 30:5-9, Psalm 119, and Luke 9:1-6)