The young man was very frustrated. His dad had just gotten him a new hunting dog and this was the first time the young man had to train the dog himself. The process was a lot tougher than the boy realized and he was out of answers.
You see every time the boy would point to a place the dog was suppose to go, the dog came up and sniffed his finger! “”No, Rex! I want you to go there!” The boy would yell and Rex would wag his tail and sniff his master’s finger!
I imagine this is how the Lord might feel if such temporary challenges could upset Him. Every time He tries to train my stubborn soul to go in a certain direction, I misinterpret His gentle guidance, and head off in the wrong direction. OK, I guess he insists on learning the hard way.
In today’s Gospel Lesson, the Lord gives His disciples insight into seeing a greater glory than just what appears to these men initially. The 70 disciples had been sent out by the Lord to share the message of Jesus concerning the Kingdom of God and now they return with glowing reports of how even the demons obeyed their commands in the authority of Christ. The disciples were thrilled that it was just like Christ Himself issuing the commands when the disciples spoke! What a joyous experience.
The 70 disciples were the company of men who followed Christ along with the 12 disciples called by the Lord when He began His preaching and ministering work. Many of these men would later go on to great and wonderful ministries of their own after the Lord’s Resurrection. My own patron, St. Barnabas, was one of the 70.
But the Lord, while He is genuinely thrilled to hear these reports, cautions the disciples to keep their focus on the true glory of their spiritual victories. Listen to what He tells them: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:16-21
The subtle dangers of being elated by spiritual victories always threaten to rob us of the joys of our spiritual progress. It is the subtle plan of the evil one to dazzle us with these good things at the expense of the best things. If the enemy can get you to focus on this or that spiritual progress then perhaps he can tempt you toward spiritual pride or thinking highly of your own abilities and drown out the reality that even these victories truly won are gifts of the grace of God. We should rather rejoice that our names are written in heaven.
In keeping this perspective in our spiritual progress, we won’t be derailed by spiritual pride or arrogance. We won’t be blinded by our own progress to the reality that even our progress, and the strength to choose rightly are all graces given to us by God Himself. We will be set free to see “all is gift.”
Now imagine what the outcome is from that liberating perspective! You are now free to see God work in your life to overcome internal and external obstacles to your spiritual progress with the humble freedom to always give glory to God and keep no credit for yourself. A wise man once said “The world has not seen what God will do with a man who really doesn’t care who gets the credit.” I would suggest there are several examples of this kind of a man in many of our saints in the Church and their holy example is what we should follow.
Today, your spiritual progress with either be short lived or deeply become part of the rest of your life based on you keeping your eye on the real source of rejoicing in your life – Your name is written in heaven – you are a member of the Body of Christ – you are a part of the Church. With that perspective you are free to see God work in your life to continue conforming your life to His image to be made in His likeness.
Today, rejoice that your name is written in heaven, and watch with humble joy as the gentle Holy Spirit continues to shape you into a worthy witness of Christ’s resurrected life. Again, I say, rejoice!