Is 66:10-14C / Ps 66 / Lk 10:1-12, 17-20
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus commissions his disciples and sends them to cure the sick and to proclaim the kingdom of God. He sends them forth two-by-two. But why does he send them out in pairs rather than as individuals? It would have been more efficient to send the disciples out alone.
Many scripture scholars explain that the Lord sent his disciples out in pairs because the Mosaic Law prescribed two witnesses to give proper testimony (cf. Dt 19:15). This is certainly true. However, I would also propose another reason: Our Lord sent them forth two-by-two because he wanted to emphasize the importance of friendship in the Christian life.
At the heart of the Christian life, there is friendship, most importantly, our friendship with Christ. On the night when he was betrayed, Jesus told his disciples that they were his friends (cf. Jn 15:15). I imagine that his disciples were astonished at this announcement since the ancients did not think that masters and servants could be friends! And yet the Lord made it so. Not surprisingly, therefore, St. Thomas Aquinas, OP, described the theological virtue of charity or love, as friendship with God (cf. Summa theologiae II.23.1). However, he also emphasized that not all love has the character of friendship. Only the love where one wishes good for his friend rather than for himself alone, is the true love of friendship. God calls us into his life as beloved friends because he desires only our happiness and our glory, and he calls us to do the same.
As Jesus loves us, so we are challenged to love our neighbors and our enemies. In our fractured and lonely societies, the Church needs to be a school of friendship that draws together everyone who is hungering and thirsting for authentic love. If we are to evangelize the world in the 21st century in the same way as the Lord called his disciples to do in the 1st century, we are called to evangelize it as friends and through the making of true friendships. This is the way of the gospel.