Monday, February 14, 2011

Ss Cyril and Methodius, Co-Patrons of Europe

Acts 13:46-49 / Luke 10:1-9

We can learn a lot about someone, indeed we can learn a lot about ourselves, from the way we pack for travel. Some of us travel with our bags numerous and full. Within our luggage can be found whole pharmacies and wardrobe changes to make the costume departments of the best theaters envious. On the other hand, some of us travel with scarcely anything at all, giving just a hint of our limitless capacity to work marvels to rival the multiplication of loaves and fishes.

Even so, whether we pack plentifully or lightly, we demonstrate that we are committed to the fantasy of autonomy. We imagine, if only to ourselves, that we have the resources to meet any and all contingencies. We might think those resources to be our external bounty, or we might be convinced those resources are internal, matters of character and creativity. All the same, we share the confidence that, even far from home, we will be in charge of what will happen.

How very different is our Lord's command to the seventy. Not once, but twice, the Lord Jesus insists that his disciples, whom he sends out in twos, to eat whatever is put before them. This command, simple as it seems, represents a direct assault on our fantasy of autonomy. Whether they like it or not, the disciples of Jesus will not be in charge of how they are perceived in the food they eat — simple or extravagant, crude or elegant. No pretense of being refined or "just plain folks" will be possible when it is someone else who will be setting the table. Rather, the disciples will need to rely not on their strategies of self-presentation, but on the Gospel and God, whose heralds they are.

This is the loss of autonomy that sustained St Cyril. It was just this willingness not to rely on the resources he might have asserted that permitted him to learn Arabic, Hebrew, and even Aramaic, to defend the Trinity against the Muslims, proclaim Christ among the Jewish Khazars, teach philosophy, and give that all up to bring the Scriptures and his preaching to the people of Great Moravia (after, of course, working with his brother Methodius on inventing a new alphabet!), only to need to petition the pope to support their work even while Rome and Constantinople were on unfriendly terms at best.

This loss of autonomy that sustained Saint Cyril and Methodius is the same loss of autonomy that will sustain us. In the end, it is not our exterior resources for mission, nor our interior intellectual and spiritual disciples, but only the grace of Christ at work in us that will bring the healing our Lord promised to the nations.

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