In the Book of Exodus we read how Moses selected seventy elders to help guide and govern the people. Luke has Jesus as the new Moses sending out seventy disciples as advance men to prepare the people for his coming. He warned them their reception would be mixed. Villages would welcome them and villages would reject them. Jesus wanted them to know that they were to depend on nothing and nobody but only on the Spirit with which he sends them. The words most remembered from this gospel are ‘the harvest is great but the laborers are few.’ These words are constantly used to refer to the need of vocations to the priesthood or religious life but this is too narrow an understanding of them. Each one of us, no matter what our state in life is called to be a harvester. One of the things we are asked to do as followers of Christ is to help ‘take away the sins of the world.’
Someone described Jesus’ taking away the sins of the world in this way: “ Jesus took away the sins of the world by holding, carrying, purifying, and transforming tension, that is, by taking in the bitterness, anger, jealousy, hatred, slander, and every other kind of thing that is cancerous within our human community, and not giving it back in kind.
In essence, Jesus did this by acting like a purifier, a water filter of sorts: He took in hatred, held it, transformed it, and gave back love; he took in bitterness, held it, transformed it, and gave back graciousness; he took in curses, held them transformed them, and gave back blessing; and he took in murder, held it, transformed it, and gave back forgiveness. Jesus resisted the instinct to give back in kind, hatred for hatred, curses for curses, jealousy for jealousy, murder for murder. He held and transformed these things rather than simply re-transmit them.”
As followers of Christ we are invited to be the lamb of God, one who is willing to take the all too common tensions, conflicts, frictions and stresses we experience in our families, communities and workplaces and as Christ did, hold them and transform them and never re- transmit them, never giving back in kind. In the living of our own lives we are meant to be like a purifier, a water filter of sorts, transforming the hurts, misunderstandings, slights that are so often a part of our lives and never give them back in kind. It is not an easy thing to do, we automatically want to hit back, tit for tat and we know from experience that only makes matters worse.
Trying to live as a filter, a water purifier we are in our own small way doing what the disciples in today’s gospel were doing; proclaiming the kingdom of God is near, a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace. From what went on in Toronto last weekend God know we need these things in the life of our city these days.