"Double, double toil and trouble"

Tom Bartolomeo
14th Sunday Ordinary C 2013
Isaiah 66, 10-14c; Psalm 66;
Galatians 6, 14-18; Luke 10: 1-12, 17-20
Reproduced with Permission

"Double, double toil and trouble. Fire burn, and cauldron bubble." Recognize these lines spoken by witches on a night when Hamlet was tortured by his troubles?

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles . . . .
(Hamlet 3, 1)

Haven't we all been there one time or another, perhaps, more than we care to admit? None of us is exempt from trouble in this life, saints or sinners, the powerful or the weak. I was struck by Saint Paul's complaint about his troubles in his Letter to the Galatians and wondered what or who he was referring to when he said, "from now on, let no one make troubles for me; for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body." Saint Paul is among a select group of saints who bore the wounds of Christ in his body, hands, feet, side and head. Painful and consoling at the same time, visible signs of the crucified Christ and assured by God of his personal redemption. But why did Saint Paul say, "let no one make troubles for me"?

Jesus often spoke of troubles and was not immune from them himself, troubles which we sometimes bring upon ourselves and troubles which the world inflicts upon us although many of our troubles are avoidable and petty. For Saint Francis of Assisi as the Apostle Paul Christ's wounds were a source of great joy for him to be so intimately identified with Jesus, a 'badge of honor' which does not necessarily require physical wounds made with nails, thorns or spears. There are some wounds or troubles, however, which we should not take to heart no matter how grievous they may seem especially emotional wounds. They can only weaken our resolve as Christians when we allow them to trouble us. As Christians we are called to carry our crosses, bravely.

Luke's Gospel touches upon many of these conflicts. When Jesus sent seventy-two disciples out to spread the 'Word' of God to villages ahead in his final journey to Jerusalem-- Jesus told them, not to take any money or extra clothing with them and not to dawdle along the way, knowing that we can be caught up with too much planning and preparations. Leave these concerns, worries and troubles behind. If we are up to God's mission we may find what we need along the way. And don't be troubled by those who turn away from us. Find others who will accept us. It worked for the seventy-two because they didn't let their anxieties or potential troubles weigh them down in their mission. Fear of trouble can freeze anyone in his tracks. How much of our lives are spent, literally spent, uselessly worrying and doing nothing. Besides, have we noticed how some troubles in time just go away? Take heart. Our old troubles will probably be replaced with new ones later!

Later in Luke's Gospel Jesus met up with one of his critics, a lawyer who "tested" him, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?", he asked. How many people have asked us about their future, their salvation, essentially? If they don't seen us as Christ's disciples, why not? The rarity of this, perhaps, explains why there is so much real spiritual trouble in the world. When the lawyer asked Jesus, Who was his neighbor, Jesus taught him and us what real discipleship is made of in the parable of the Good Samaritan, a person who most Jews despised. We should not presume that we will be accepted into the kingdom of God if we do not reach out to others in need. Prayer alone will not save us. "You believe in God", Saint James said, Fine. "Well, even the demons believe - and shudder, he added, . . . you senseless person . . . faith without works is barren . . . just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead." ( James 2, 19ff ).

We need to remember that Christ knew this was his last journey to Jerusalem where he would die, rise from the dead and return to his Father in heaven. Luke made that clear when earlier he reported "When the days for Jesus' being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem". (Luke 9, 51). His teachings took on even more urgency along the way. For example, when he visited Martha and Mary and Martha complained about her trouble preparing her home for Jesus' stay without her sister's help. Mary, we were told, simply "sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying". Jesus had to tell Martha, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part." (Luke 10, 38-42).

Now I know that this shouldn't surprise anyone here that we will all die--for many sooner than they expect. Our pilgrimage and journey is not some vacation we take which I spoke about last Sunday. If that is all we know of God's kingdom - that is genuinely troubling since we take nothing with us from this world into his kingdom except our relationship with God. If we do not know this about God's kingdom - that, too, is genuinely troubling. We should plan every day as if it were our last day, and one day we will get right. If we are saddened or uncomfortable thinking about our own deaths--that is a seriously troubling. Our passing cares in this world matter little. After all we don't know what tomorrow will bring and should listen to Jesus, "do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will reveal its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today." ( Matthew 6, 34). The exercise of virtue in good works sets our roots deep in the soil of our souls so that, as Jesus said, "when trouble and persecution arises on account of the word you may not abandon your life forever". (Matthew 13, 21).

Finally, trouble has no effect at all on our relationship with God except as a clear indication that this world is not our true home. Jesus was often troubled while he physically lived among us, but his troubles were genuine not imagined or exaggerated. Knowing what lay before his arrest and crucifixion he spoke about his pending death, "Now my soul is troubled", he said. "And what should I say - 'Father, save me from this hour? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour". (John 12, 27). At his last supper with his Apostles, we were told, that Jesus "was troubled in spirit, and declared, 'Truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me'." He was not unduly troubled for himself but the soul of another. After Jesus rose from the dead he enjoined his peace upon his Apostles: "My peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid". (John 14, 1-27).

I have not yet answered the question I first raised, Why did Saint Paul say, "from now on, let no one make troubles for me; for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body." I can only surmise from my own experience that a priest of Jesus Christ like Paul wants to live his life as an Apostle, one sent to spread the Word and labor in the harvest for souls and not be troubled by less important matters in the parish which may distract the priest from his vocation. He is called to evangelize and as we all are--to carry the sign of our Savior into the world and not be troubled with the administrative and social activities of the parish.