Being Left Out
In the Gospel Reading, Jesus picks seventy-two people to send out on a challenging preaching mission. They travel from one city to another by foot, without money or other provisions. Think about all the stuff we take when we travel, and you will see how difficult their mission was.
But Jesus doesn’t leave them helpless. He gives them power. They can cure sicknesses and cast out devils. That is a lot of power!
Jesus handpicked the seventy-two people he gave this power to. What would it have felt like to be a disciple who was not picked? How left out must such a disciple have felt?
But guess what? These seventy-two disciples were left out too. They may have done miracles, but they were left out of the company of the twelve apostles. The Gospel says that Jesus appointed seventy-two others—other beside the apostles, that is. Even though the seventy-two come back rejoicing that the devils are subject to their power, they still don’t rank being added to the twelve apostles.
How can Jesus leave people out in this way? Is everybody supposed to suffer some sense of abandonment by Jesus except those lucky enough to be in the innermost circle of the twelve?
The solution to this puzzle lies in what a person wants. The seventy-two come back rejoicing in their power. But then power is what they want. Jesus rebukes them for it. Don’t rejoice in your power, he tells them; rejoice rather in the fact that you will be united to God in heaven.
If you want not to be left out of something, your desire has to do with yourself and your status.
Those who felt left out because they weren’t chosen to be among the seventy-two wanted to be honored by being part of that group. And maybe that is why they weren’t picked.
And maybe the seventy-two were passed over when Jesus was picking the twelve apostles because the seventy-two cared about power and their own status as powerful people handpicked by Jesus. If what you want is power and status, your desire is for yourself, isn’t it? It isn’t for Jesus.
So those who weren’t picked for some group weren’t abandoned by Jesus. To be among those closest to Jesus, all you have to do is want Jesus.
Eleonore Stump is Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University
**From Saint Louis University