“Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you… Do not move about from one house to another.”
Before there were two or three rectories for one priest, as is the case in many dioceses nowadays, there was one rectory for 3-4 priests. Before that, long before that, there were the houses of the faithful where the traveling, healing, teaching, baptizing, anointing, exorcising, preaching ministers of the Lord Jesus would stay. But not mulitple houses within the same town. No, Jesus is clear to the 72 disciples before he sends them out that they are to “Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you… Do not move about from one house to another.”
Why did he say that? I don’t have a degree in New or Old Testament Scripture but I’m not sure I need one. This saying, as some of Jesus’ sayings are, seems pretty down-to-earth knowing human weakness. And that is just it, his command limits the destructive power of human beings in their weaknesses and frailties.
Did you ever say in front of one grandmother to the other, “Grandma, you’re apple pies are the best”? Did you ever say in front of one uncle to another, “I love spending time with you guys at your house”? If you haven’t, I wouldn’t suggest you try. Jealousy, envy, competition, comparison, gossip, slander, entitlement, worldliness, passions- the list is almost endless- can one or all come out of a few imprudent decisions if moving from house to house.
On the flip side, who is to hold a minister accountable, himself beset by weakness, as the Letter to Hebrews reminds us, if he is moving about from one house to another. Not seeing his patterns, habits, or decision making processes can be very easy when he is at one house one day and another house another day. So too, Jesus’ command seems to protect not only the laity but the ministers as well- in both cases.
St. Paul seems to understand the difficulty of worldliness that comes through human fraility. He says, the “cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” is for him a saying grace. Yet we know from Romans that he bitterly laments that the good he wants to do, he cannot. And the evil he does not want to do, he does.
Knowing that we are all weak human beings who mean well is not enough. It’s a first step. Working together, bishops, priests and laity to provide for healthy, human living situations for our priests is one step in the right direction, so it seems to me.
…Just something to reflect on as so many priests spend their first weekends in their new rectories after their transfers this month.