Is 66:10-14c; Gal 6:14-18; Lk 10: 1-12, 17-20
There is a story of a chaplain who was serving on the battlefield. He came across a young man who was lying in a shell hole, seriously wounded. "Would you like me to read something from this book, the Bible?" he asked. "I'm so thirsty, I'd rather have a drink of water." The soldier said. Hurrying away, the chaplain soon brought the water. Then the wounded man said, "Could you put something under my head?" The chaplain took off his overcoat, rolled it up and gently placed it under the man's head for a pillow. "Now," said the suffering man, "if I just had something over me -I'm cold." The chaplain immediately removed his jacket and put it over the wounded man to keep him warm. Then the soldier looked the chaplain straight in the eye and said, "If there is anything in that book that makes a man do for another all that you have done for me, then please read it, because I'd love to hear it." If my actions do not speak of Gospel values, be sure my words never will. What affects most people is often caught rather than taught. Indeed we are the only book on Jesus Christ that others may ever read!
Introduction: Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus sent his disciples out to towns and villages to prepare for his visit, and gave them “travel tips” for their missionary journey. This reminds us that announcing the Good News of the Kingdom is not the task of only a few. Rather, it is a task for all. Following the model of Jesus, the Church rejoices in the triumphs and accomplishments of her children. She constantly nourishes them, directs them, consoles them and gives them strength. In the first reading, Isaiah sees the city of Jerusalem as the prototype of the rejoicing Church—the Church who comforts her children, “as a mother comforts her baby son.” He assures his listeners that they live in the certainty of Yahweh’s promises of love, protection, prosperity and salvation. In the words of the Responsorial Psalm, (Psalm 66), “He has changed the sea into dry land; through the river they passed on foot; therefore, let us rejoice in Him. He rules by His might forever!” In today’s second reading (Galatians 6: 14-18), Paul clearly teaches that it is Jesus’ death on the cross which brings us salvation and not a heritage of the past. Paul reminds us that every Christian is called to be a “new creature,” and that the mission of each member of the Church is to bear witness to the saving power of the cross of Christ through a life of sacrificial, self-giving service. Today’ Gospel, taken from the Gospel of Luke, describes, in Jesus’ commissioning of 72 disciples to preach the Gospel in towns and villages in preparation for his visit, the fulfillment of the prophetic promise made by Isaiah. The 1.5 billion Christians in the world today have the same mission. We are to proclaim the Gospel of Christ to the other 4.5 billion non-Christians.
First reading: Isaiah 66:10-14: The prophet Isaiah is encouraging the Jews, who are returning to Israel from Babylonian exile, to see their beloved city of God, Jerusalem, alive under its ruins. In poetic and symbolic language, he describes the prosperity and peace which the New Jerusalem will give them. Both the Holy City of Jerusalem and God are presented under the image of a mother. The prophet offers a maternal image of God. The returned exiles will have the experience of a child being fondled by its loving mother. They will be like suckling infants enjoying the comfort and nurture of a mother because the city will give them the experience of Yahweh’s love and care, the Temple of Jerusalem will represent and house God’s presence in their midst and "the Lord's power shall be known to his servants." The prophet calls on his fellow-Jews to rejoice and be glad because Jerusalem will be greater, more peaceful and more prosperous than she ever was before. Today’ Gospel, taken from the Gospel of Luke, describes, in Jesus’ commissioning of 72 disciples to preach the Gospel in towns and villages in preparation for his visit, the fulfillment of the prophetic promise made by Isaiah. The Second Reading, Galatians 6:14-18, gives us the concluding words of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Shortly after Paul left Galatia, some ultra-conservative Judeo-Christians arrived there from Jerusalem. They taught that, since the historical Jesus was Jewish, circumcised and observant of the Torah, his disciples had to be circumcised as Jews and had to observe the Torah. Responding, Paul wrote a letter to those in Galatia who were disturbed and confused by these teachings. In the letter, Paul argues forcefully that God requires no such thing, and that keeping such a past obligation is nothing to boast about. Astonishingly, Paul boasts about what would otherwise be shameful, the execution of Jesus on the cross. "Crucified to the world" is another strong image, meaning that Paul's relationship with the world is no longer governed by the old Mosaic Law or anything else from the past, but by his relationship with Christ crucified.
Exegesis: Travel tips for the seventy-two walking witnesses on their first mission trip: While all the synoptic Gospels mention a mission of the Twelve, only Luke adds a second mission of the 72. Just as Moses selected the seventy-two elders to guide and govern his people, so Luke presents Jesus as the “new Moses” in today’s Gospel. Jesus sends out his seventy-two disciples to towns and villages to announce his visit, thus giving a symbolic meaning to the number seventy-two. The Jews also believed that there were seventy-two nations in the whole world, and they had seventy-two members in the Sanhedrin, the supreme council of the Jews. In the Book of Genesis, seventy descendants of Jacob moved with him from Israel to Egypt to begin a new life. In the Book of Exodus, seventy elders go up the Mountain of God along with Moses to learn about the new Covenant with YHWH. Each of us, by the very fact that we have heard the Lord's call, is likewise sent on a mission. Hence, announcing the Good News of the kingdom is not something optional for a Christian. The disciples received instructions as to how they were to carry out their mission. For example, they were to "carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals." There is also an ominous warning that they are sent as “lambs among wolves.” Their guidelines were simple: go where they were received (verses 5-6); remain in one place (verse 7) and eat what was set before them (verse 8). This would help them avoid the appearance of being mercenary. The basic idea behind Jesus’ instruction is that his disciples were sent as walking witnesses, and, hence, they were not to depend on anything or anybody except on the Holy Spirit of God and on Divine providence.
1) "Ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers to the harvest.” The mission of the seventy-two disciples was not a human project, and, hence, they needed strength from God to do the work. In proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom, we, too, participate in God’s work. It is the Lord Who is working in and through us. He gives us the power to announce His presence with our lives. Therefore, constant contact with the Lord of the harvest is necessary. This means that we must be men and women of prayer -- not only for an hour a week at Mass but on a daily basis.
2) "Do not carry a walking staff or traveling bag; wear no sandals." In Jesus’ day, travelers carried a stick as a defense against snakes and wild animals, and used sandals as an aid in traveling along dusty roads and rocky byways. Likewise, a change of clothing as well as food and drink were thought necessary—but Jesus forbade all these. His command was that the disciples should give up even these necessities so as to be both a living act of Faith in God and “walking signs” to those who saw them. The disciples were only armed with their Faith and the name of Jesus. They needed nothing more. Their detachment from material goods would enable them to uphold the absolute priority of preaching the Good News. They did not need a staff or provisions because God would take care of them through the people to whom they were to preach. The spirit of detachment would also help them to trust more deeply in Divine Providence and would oblige them to rely humbly on the hospitality of those who were receptive to the Gospel. Their life-style should help proclaim their message: "The reign of God is at hand." In other words, "God is among you as Jesus of Nazareth, working with power."
3) "Greet no one along the way." (See also 2 Kings 4:29). This instruction implies that the mission was so urgent that nothing should divert the disciples from it. Likewise, the disciples were told to travel in pairs (perhaps for mutual support), suggesting that the work of evangelization should be a collective one.
4) Acceptance and rejection: One of the reasons we prefer to delegate our Lord's evangelistic work to priests, religious and missionaries is that we fear rejection. When by our words and lifestyles we tell others about Jesus, we sometimes find ourselves labeled as “religious fanatics," “Bible-thumpers,” or perhaps, simply as “old-fashioned.” Many times we take the rejection personally. So Jesus consoles us: "Let your peace come back to you.” This means, “Don’t take it personally. You have done your part, so don’t worry about the outcome.” He goes on, telling them, “Rejoice because your names are written in Heaven” in the Book of Life! It is not up to us to force anyone to accept Jesus. Our mission is to prepare the way. If a person's heart is open, the Lord will enter in.
5) Preach that the Kingdom of God is at hand. The Kingdom of God comes into being wherever God reigns, and wherever His will is done. The Kingdom of God is present in the people through whom God acts. “Hence the early Church equated Christ with the Kingdom of God because God reigns in Christ, God’s will is done in Christ and God acts through Christ” (Lumen Gentium, #5). Thus, to proclaim the Kingdom of God is the same as to proclaim Christ. In fact, the Church from its beginning, by proclaiming the Good News of Christ, was being faithful to his mandate to proclaim the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God has come upon us if God reigns in our hearts, if we do God's will and if God acts through us.
Life Messages: 1) We need to continue the preaching mission: Just as Jesus in today’s Gospel gives instructions to the seventy-two missionaries, he also gives each one of us a mission to carry out. There were just a handful of followers in Jesus’ day to preach the Good News, but today there are over one billion Roman Catholics and about a half billion other Christians (in 30,000 denominations!) who accept Jesus as “Lord” and “Savior.” So there are 1.5 billion missionaries in a world of six billion people. A recent survey asked the question, “Why do adults join the Catholic Church in spite of the scandals publicized in the media?” Seventy-five percent of the new adult converts to the Catholic Church reported that they were attracted by a personal invitation from a Catholic who had a lively relationship with Christ and his Church. As faithful Catholics, we will attract others to the Catholic Church—just as a rose attracts people by its beauty and fragrance. It’s our job. It’s our responsibility. We must not miss the current opportunities to be apostles in everyday life by our words and deeds.
2) We need to avoid giving counter-witness: The Church is founded on the rock of Peter, a humble, uneducated fisherman who died for the Lord he loved. Compare his Faith and heroic witnessing with the “supermarket Catholicism” of our politicians who publicly proclaim their “Catholicism,” yet support abortion, gay marriage, human cloning and experimentation with human embryos. We should not be “Catholics for a Free Choice” who oppose anything proposed by the Church, including the most basic right to life. Nor should we be armchair Catholics, spiritual weekend warriors, “cafeteria Catholics” or “barely-make-it-to-Mass” members of the Church, who bear counter-witness to Christ. Instead of giving counter-witness, let us become heralds of the Kingdom in our own homes by treating each other with profound respect. When spouses respect each other and, thus, teach their children to do the same, our neighbors will experience the Kingdom in our families, because the Kingdom of God is God’s rule in our hearts enabling us to do His will.
3) The modern world needs the heroic witnessing of martyrs. The early writers of the Church never called the first Christians “martyrs,” in the modern sense of the word, but rather gave that name to those who died “giving witness” (martyrein) to Christ. The most important element wasn’t their deaths; it was their fidelity to their faith until the last moment of their lives. Martyrs are not people to be relegated to the distant past. Recent history abounds with examples of martyrdom: civil war in Spain, religious persecution in Poland, Mexico, Vietnam, Russia, China, and Africa. The names of Edith Stein (Germany), Maximilian Kolbe (Poland), Miguel Pro (Mexico), and Pedro Poveda (Spain) are only the beginning of a long list of innocent victims, witnesses for their faith. Even today, religious freedom is still denied in various countries and, in fact, several Muslim nations forbid the celebration of the Sacraments. In our day, there are also “moral martyrs” who, although they are never physically killed, die an ignominious death, persecuted in the press, defamed in the media and falsely accused of faults they never committed. As successors of the seventy-two disciples, we are called upon to do Christ’s work with the courage of these martyrs’ convictions.
Spartacus was a slave who led an uprising against the Roman government ... but the slaves were all captured by the Romans. The Roman general told them if they revealed Spartacus to him, he would spare their lives. At that moment, Spartacus stands and says, "I am Spartacus." Unexpectedly, the slave next to him stands and says, "I am Spartacus." And the next and the next until the entire group is standing. This inspiring scene illustrates the role of a leader in the Church to create levels of engagement such that when we, as leaders, stand on an issue, our people will stand with us. Today’s Gospel has outlined the action plan for future leaders in the Church.
(Homilies of Fr. Anthony Kadavil)
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