I suspect that when most of us read the passage from the synoptic Gospels in which Jesus sends the disciples out to preach, we concentrate on the fact that Jesus tells them that they are to take no money, no sack, nor sandals. When I read the Gospel this morning, I was struck by the fact that he adds this admonition to the list: greet no one along the way (Luke 10:4d). At first, I wondered why Jesus would say something like this if he was sending the disciples to preach his message. Then I realized that I was forgetting one important "fact" about life in first century Israel: traveling was dangerous business!
One Middle Eastern proverb that has stuck with me is "In traveling, we learn the purpose of caravans." Though somewhat cryptic, the proverb references the fact that traveling alone was suicidal, traveling with only one other person was almost as dangerous. We are all familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan which relates the fate of a man who was traveling on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem. He fell among robbers who beat him severely. This example was taken from real life experience. The roads of first century Israel were populated with brigands of every stripe. One simply did not travel alone.
So the admonition that Jesus gives his disciples to speak to no one along the way was simply a safety precaution. However, it also underlines the fact that Jesus was sending his disciples out to do something that was inherently dangerous. The fact of the matter is that living as a Christian in many parts of our own world is just as dangerous. Persecution of Christians is constantly in the news that we hear from present day Syria. However, Syria is hardly alone in this respect. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has asked us to pray for these people on many different occasions of late. I will admit that my own comfortable situation usually helps me to forget to do so.
As we celebrate the Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist today, let us remember the many people whose very lives are in danger because of their choice to follow Jesus and to preach the Gospel.