My uncle, Fr. James Conner, O.C.S.O., a Trappist Monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani, wrote a homily recently about the words of Jesus found in the gospel of Luke.
“If they do not accept you, go out into the streets and say:
‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet,
even that we shake off against you’”. Luke 10:10-11
"The words of Jesus," he said, "might seem quite harsh at first sight...However in the context of the whole text..., we see that it is done only as a last resort.
Jesus is primarily sending his disciples into towns to proclaim the message of God’s love and care for all peoples. The primary word that He wants them to proclaim is: “Peace to this house!” It is a peace which only God can give, but a peace which is promised by all the prophets for the mission of the one sent by God.
Jesus comes among us as the fulfillment of the promise of the coming of one who will be Prince of Peace. He comes to proclaim peace which comes from God’s loving care for each one of His children. Isaiah compares the peaceful person to a child on its mother’s breast. “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you”. That child is each one to whom the Word of God is proclaimed. It is each one of us who have received this message that God will care for us as a mother cares for her infant.
But we don’t like to consider ourselves as infants. We want to see ourselves as self-reliant and competent to take care of ourselves and our world. We all too often act as if we did not need God’s help and protection.
But Paul tells that “the world has been crucified to me and I to the world” (Gal 6: 14). The world that must be crucified to each one of us is the world of deceit and selfishness – a world of power and prestige. But by that very fact it is a world of lies. Jesus calls Satan the “father of lies”. The lies which Satan sows in the world and in our hearts is the lie of self-sufficiency – “I do not truly need God – I can care for myself and my world!”
It is such lies which lie at the root of all the evil and deceit in the world today. All too often, even leaders of nations are known more for their lies than for fostering truth. Such actions only sow dissent and division within a nation and in the hearts of those who follow him. It serves to divide the nation from other nations and even beget division within the nation itself. And Jesus said also: “A house that is divided cannot stand”. (Mark 3: 25)
In contrast to this, Jesus sends his disciples – he sends each one of us – to spread the true message of God’s love and care for every person. We may object to world leaders sowing dissent and division, but do the very same thing in our dealings with one another in daily life.
Each time that we encounter another person, it should embody the message: “Peace to you!”. The Christian should be a person of peace. Above all, the monk should be a man of peace – peace within himself and peace with others with whom he lives. The injunction of Jesus does not extend merely to missionaries. It extends to each one of us – whether in the monastery or in our homes and places of work.