The Apostolic and Evangelical Journeys of Jesus, Writ Large! A Reflection on the Biblical Roots of a Papal Visit

blog9-20-2015In the papal visit soon to unfold in this country we see writ large a process and pattern established by Jesus Himself. In this blog post we will look especially at the process of preparation and see that it is quite directly connected to the way in which Jesus operated.

To many readers of the gospel, who overlook the details, it could seem that Jesus and the Twelve just wandered about in a haphazard manner, charismatically deciding “on the fly” when and where to go. But according to Scripture, this is not the case.

Jesus had a plan, an itinerary of his journey, laid out rather carefully it would seem. Further, He sent “advance teams” on ahead to prepare the people for His arrival. Consider the following quotes:

Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Luke 10:1-2).

And He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him (Luke 9:52).

Further, His “apostolic band” required financial and personal support. Here, too, this support was not accomplished in some disorganized way; it was more organized than many today would think. Scripture attests to this:

Jesus journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources (Luke 8:1-3).

So the evangelical journeys of Jesus were not some haphazard wandering about.They visits were planned and the people were prepared. And here was the goal: that when Jesus entered, The crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him (Luke 8:40).

It is like this with the upcoming visit of Pope Francis. The pope is the Vicar of Christ; that is, he is Christ’s representative. People are not clamoring to meet Jorge Bergoglio; they are eager to meet the Christ he represents and whose Vicar he is.

It is much like the visits of Jesus in ancient Galilee and Judea, just writ larger—much larger! The villages and towns of the ancient Holy Land were seldom larger than a thousand people. Only Jerusalem, Caesarea, and some of the Greek cities of the Decapolis were much larger. Today, metropolises contain millions of people and the distances between them are global!

Many have been preparing the cities of Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and New York for his coming, and crowds will greet the pope, the Vicar of Christ.

Consider well the complex preparations! Be grateful to those who have labored long and hard. There have been long hours, complex arrangements, publicity, fundraising, logistics, last-minute changes, public safety, and delicate negotiations with religious and government officials and private citizens.

I have personally observed the sacrifices that many at the Pastoral Center of the Archdiocese of Washington have made. Do not underestimate the personal price that many have paid to ensure that all is ready, safe, and organized.

Be grateful, too, for the many benefactors who have generously supplied funds for this visit. Gratitude is also due to government officials, the Secret Service, the D.C. Police, and many other “first responders” who stand ready for the arrival and poised to care for any difficulties that might arise. Acknowledgement is also due to many individuals and business owners who will be inconvenienced due to the festivities. We are and must be grateful for their patience and sacrifice!

Yes, it is the apostolic and evangelical journeys of Jesus, writ large. They were organized and underwritten. So is this one. Many sacrificed to prepare towns for Jesus; many here have done the same for the pope. The Scriptures are really not so distant after all. They are still fulfilled in ever larger and more visible ways.

Surely Pope Francis would be the first to say, “Viva Christo Rey!” Indeed, may Jesus Christ be praised!