We are fast approaching the time of year when people take summer holidays. If you’re going on a journey you plan, prepare and pack. When we travel we take things with us: food, clothing, and other things which are useful on our journey and while we are away. This makes sense. Most of us would not follow Jesus’ advice in the Gospel to the letter. And we would be wise not to do so.
Today’s Gospel sees the beginnings of the Church’s missionary activity. Last week we heard Jesus sending a few disciples on ahead of Him. Now that program is intensified.
‘After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.’ (Lk 10:1)
Our Lord commissions thirty-six teams to go out and prepare the way. They are not sent out on their own, they go in pairs. This is sensible given that single travellers were more likely to be attacked by bandits or robbers. It also reminds us that Christian ministry should not be a solo activity. We need support, both human and divine. The Church is, first and foremost, a community of believers, brothers and sisters in Christ.
“Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no money bag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’” (Lk 10:3-5)
Jesus’ advice to His missionaries begins by highlighting the dangerous nature of their undertaking. They will face violence and opposition. The idea of travelling light and not talking en route is to underline the need for their to be no delay. Their mission is urgent. People need to know the Good News of the Kingdom, and they need to know it now. The lighter you travel, the easier it is. Also, you are forced to rely upon the generosity of others, and their generosity is itself another sign of the Kingdom. Jesus is using an extreme example to underline the urgency of the task at hand, rather than giving travel advice.
Christians greet each other by saying, ‘Peace be with you’. We will soon greet each other with these words. As part of our worship we share the Peace which Christ has given us, and we share it with the world. This is our calling.
And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the labourer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ (Lk 10:7-9)
The disciples are to be reliant upon the charity of others, so that their actions as well as their words will preach the Gospel. We are all dependant on each other and upon God. Hospitality demonstrates love and care, and makes it real. It is important that those sent out don’t move about, going from house to house, in search of better food or a comfier bed. They are to stay put, and be grateful for what they receive. Through their actions they show that the Kingdom is a place of healing. God longs to see humanity restored.
Jesus’ advice is realistic: not everyone wants to accept what is offered. He tells the missionaries to say,
‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ (Lk 10:11)
God respects human freedom, but it is important that the Gospel is proclaimed, even if it is rejected. The seventy-two meet with success, but Jesus points out that something is more important than even miracles:
“Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Lk 10:20)
Healing and miracles are an important sign of the Kingdom of God, but salvation is more important. Christians are baptised, to share in Christ’s Death and Resurrection, and our names are written in Heaven.
This reality underlies the confidence of St Paul as he writes to the Christians in Galatia.
‘But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.’ (Gal 6:14)
Because of the Cross, God’s love has been poured out on the world. The love which heals, and reconciles, and gives us the hope of heaven. Ours is the hopeful message of a loving and healing God, and we ourselves are testament to the power of God’s love to change people. It is a powerful thing, knowing that God can take you, and transform you, in ways that you might never expect or imagine. But it happens, here and all around the world, so that the saving truth might continue to be proclaimed by word and deed. The prophet Isaiah looked forward to a future of peace, and that peace has become a reality in Jesus.
‘As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.’ (Isa 66: 13)
Humanity is comforted in Jerusalem, on Calvary. Such is the power of the Cross: it saves humanity, it frees us from our sins, and gives us new life in Christ. This is the cause of our joy, our rejoicing. This is the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy. This is humanity’s consolation. In this we are comforted.
So, may our words and actions proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom. May we share God’s love with others. And let us give glory to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. To whom be ascribed as is most right and just all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now and forever. Amen.