Isaiah 66:10-14; Galatians 6:14-18; Luke10:1-12, 17-20
The Gospel of today tells us that Jesus summoned his seventy committed people and sent them two by two to communicate God’s love, to bind up wounds and to be peace makers in a troubled world. These ordinary people took with them no great plan, no set speech, and no practical manual to tell them what to do. They brought only their faith, their trust and their experience of Jesus. They in fact had lived with him and had experienced him. Jesus also knew that they would make mistakes. In spite of this he called them to himself, gave them his mission and gave them his authority, to heal, to rectify and bring people back to life. Today all the baptized do understand their call to the mission of Jesus and their task to do the ministry for others. Jesus calls each to be ready for the mission, to leave behind the luggage and set out with hearts fully attuned to his call. Like those seventy two persons we too are called to proclaim that the kingdom of God is at hand and this has to be proclaimed through our lives. It is still possible for us to do it even after two thousand years through our simple acts of caring and our personal ability. It is necessary for us to lend a listening ear to the sick and lonely, helpless and elderly and give them that consolation and healing. The call of Jesus continues to come to us even today in our world. We have to give them peace of Jesus.
The First Reading from the Book of Isaiah begins by saying that we should rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all of us who love her. The prophet sees the blessing in store for his people. They will know the joy of being God’s special people. The prophet joyfully announces the transformation that has taken place in the royal city of Jerusalem. The city now can consider itself like a mother of a large family with plenty of resources to keep them alive and healthy. The prophet calls them to rejoice with her in joy, all of those who had been mourning over her. Based on these words, it appears that their joy should be for the physical City of Jerusalem. The verse that follows implies that Jerusalem is alive, being a life giving body. It states, “That you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breasts; that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious bosom.” In darker days the kings in Jerusalem had to worry about food and water. They were surrounded by threat of war and famine. Now the city is secure with plenty of things that make life worth living. God’s grace is abundant that it is like a river of water flowing through the streets.
Today’s Second Reading taken from the Letter to the Galatians St Paul tells us that in order to bring God’s reign into our personal world, we must boast of nothing other than the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The cross of the Lord means the whole Christ event. For “it is written, ‘let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” In this Reading, we hear Paul mentioning that he carried the marks of Jesus branded on his body. This does not mean that Paul had the marks of the cross of Christ on his body. Paul in fact was referring to all the suffering that he had to endure for Christ. He has surrendered totally to Christ who is crucified. He endured illness, flogging and stoning, all sorts of persecutions for Christ. These marks that he carried on his body were proof that he was a slave of Christ. Paul’s enemies should recognize all he has suffered for the Gospel and should trouble him no more. Equally today in our own times, we are aware that many Catholics bear marks of suffering, torture and imprisonment for Christ. Through their suffering, they have brought God’s reign into our world. They are living examples of Saints who are ready to suffer so the glory of God may be seen in the world.
Today’s Gospel reading tells us of the missionary journey of the disciples, the persons who had lived with Jesus and understood his mission and his work. Luke tells us that Jesus appointed seventy disciples or seventy two and sent them on ahead of Him in pairs to every town and place where He Himself intended to go. Some think this has a symbolic reference to the seventy nations descended from Noah described in Genesis 10. Most probably it reflects the time of Luke’s community and sets forth the outline form, expected of a missionary. The disciples go in pairs and not as isolated individuals. The number two also adds to the witness value which required the testimony of two people. There is also a certain eschatological urgency indicating the harvest is ready and there is immediate need of the labourers. Those words may also have been directed towards early Christians as they lived in relatively tiny communities in a sea of paganism and had to work hard to bring them to Christian faith. Jesus tells them that there is seriousness about seeking and spreading the message of peace. He tells them not to indulge in distractions but get on with their work. Jesus recommends his disciples as they go on their mission, not to weigh themselves down with all kinds of bag and baggage. Their security is not in material possessions, such as money, property, security and comfort. His advice is that the missionaries as they go to proclaim peace and kingdom take no walking staff, or a travelling bag or sandals, but trust fully in the divine providence. It is not in their status and standing high in the eyes of others that they proclaim the Kingdom; it is not in the power and influence that they can wield that they win over people. Their security comes from deep within, a security that no one or no circumstance can take away from them. The person then becomes vulnerable making God to work through their weakness.
The work of the disciples is not going to be easy as they will be required to enter very precarious situations with absolute minimum equipment. They will be like lambs being sent out to work among wolves. The urgency of the mission is captured by the mandate that they go in poverty and emptiness and not greet anyone on the way, something that would appear very strange in a culture dominated by gestures of hospitality. The core of their message must be peace. They in reality explain what Jesus is about and what the kingdom of God is about. This was the message at the Nativity and later at the resurrection. The disciples have their mission for the kingdom carefully planned out by Jesus for them. It includes three things: first, they have to establish a community, a community of love. Second, they are called upon to heal those who are sick. Thirdly, they are to announce that the kingdom of God is close at hand. Ultimately they are called upon to proclaim Jesus in their mission. If they are accepted their mission is complete but if they are rejected then those who do so will have a fate worse than Sodom, notorious for its lack of hospitality.
The disciple is to proclaim the kingdom of God and inform people it is at hand, it is close by and immediate. There is a sense of urgency in the invitation to the kingdom. There is a single hearted purpose in accepting this invite and hence he tells them that nothing should hinder them: no purse or haversacks or tunic or sandals or money purse. These were the five things they left behind when a Jew entered the Temple to pray to God. Here Jesus tells them they are to find God in people and leave those attachments behind. In other words he tells them that the world is holy like the Temple as God is present there. They are to teach all to find God.
The mission was dangerous and difficult, yet indeed challenging to the disciples. The seventy two returned with joy and their hearts filled with thanksgiving. They were back from their mission rejoicing and excited. They discovered they could do the same things that Jesus was doing. They could do the healing, drive away demons and even bring dead to life. They were the extension of Jesus in every possible way. To be a labourer in the harvest is for the happiness of others to be as important as your own. It is to experience inner peace and to be a bringer of peace to others. Their life was transformed with the mission given to them. They tell Jesus that even the demons submitted themselves to them in his Name. To this, Jesus answers, “I watched Satan fall from Heaven like a flash of lightning.” Jesus declares that the success of the disciples demonstrates that the kingdom of God is winning out over the power of Satan. Using the futuristic language and applying it to the present situation, Jesus emphasizes that the disciple will be able to exercise the power of the ministry without being subject to harm. However these signs of immediate success are not the most important aspects of the ministry. Most important is that the names of the disciples are written in heaven, a symbol of salvation.
One word that occurs and is repeated in all three readings today is “peace”. Peace is not merely the absence of war or maintaining balance of power between adversaries. It is the tranquility of order, it is the effect of justice and it is the effect of charity. Isaiah, in the First Reading, speaks of God sending “flowing peace, like a river”. Paul speaks of the peace and mercy that come to all who become that transformed person in Jesus Christ. And, in the Gospel, Jesus sends his disciples as lambs in the midst of wolves, and tells them to proclaim peace and to bring peace with them to every house they enter. This peace is not dependent on outside circumstances. It can exist even when we are surrounded by storms. It is the peace Jesus experienced after his prayer in the garden. It is the peace Jesus experienced on the cross in the midst of sufferings. It is the peace that Paul experiences, even though he has had his share of the “cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” and who bears in his own body the marks of Jesus’ pain and suffering. So our task as Christians is to be bringers of peace. It is a peace that a close following of Jesus can bring. It is a peace that will transform our lives and make us available for others. Finally peace is oneness with God’s will.
The Gospel and the other readings tell us that we too have the task to proclaim the kingdom and we are now able to bring God’s reign into our world. We have been made part of God’s family and we have the responsibility to reach out to God’s children beyond all barriers we can imagine. Jesus wants us to rejoice, not simply in what we have done in the past but in the fact that we have worked out our salvation by being part of the kingdom. Let Peace be out greeting and peace be our hallmark. Peace is the sign of the presence of God’s kingdom. May the God of peace be in our hearts and in our homes today and every day.
Fr Eugene Lobo S.J. Rome