Year C: Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Mission of the Seventy-two
Luke 10:1-12, 17-20
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. He said to them, “The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few; so, ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no moneybag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way.
Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’ If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you.
Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his payment. Do not move about from one house to another. Whatever town you enter, and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.” Whatever town you enter, and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say, ‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.’ Yet know this: the kingdom of God is at hand. I tell you; it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town.
Return of the Seventy-two
The seventy-two returned rejoicing, and said, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.” Jesus said, “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky. Behold, I have given you the power ‘to tread upon serpents’ and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
- Why do you think Jesus wants his disciples to experience dependency on the hospitality of others? Is depending on others a comfortable, or an uncomfortable thought for you? Explain.
- Over whom do you have authority? What is the source of your authority and how do you think God wants you to use your authority?
- Essentially, we are a “missionary” Church. This can be a challenge for many of us as we often over associate evangelization with preaching and teaching, rather than serving and sharing. How are you doing in the “sharing your faith with others” aspect of discipleship? What are your gifts and challenges here?
- If you were trying to encourage others to trust in God’s power, what examples from your own observations and experience would you share with them?
Luke 10:1-12, 17-20
Sr. Mary M McGlone CSJ
In today’s first reading, Jerusalem was featured as a source of consolation and salvation where God’s power “would be made known to his servants” (Isa 66:14). Jerusalem is also featured in the travel account of Luke’s Gospel, from which this excerpted pericope has been selected. Jesus was headed to that Holy City in order to become himself the source of consolation and salvation for all peoples. While en route, Jesus healed the sick, forgave sin, cast out demons and challenged his followers to accept the often-harsh demands of discipleship. Today’s Gospel offers valuable lessons in discipleship and missiology. – the study of the nature of missionary work and function in the Christian Church.
In sending forth his own, Jesus compared them to laborers about to reap an abundant harvest. A popular Old Testament theme, the harvest was a symbol of the messianic era of judgment and salvation (Amos 9:13-15; Psalm 125:5-6; Joel 4:13; Jer 5:17). Jesus also instructed those sent forth in the importance of prayer, telling them, “Ask the master of the harvest” (v. 2) — that is, God — to send workers. The shift in metaphors from “reapers” to “lambs among wolves” warned of the hostility the disciples would encounter and reminded them that they were the beloved sheep of their Good Shepherd, Jesus.
Jesus’ instruction about how the disciples should travel and conduct themselves underscored the supreme value of the kingdom. Their devotion to their mission would preclude any preoccupation with material things, social amenities, food, etc. Jesus’ instruction to “eat what is set before you” (v. 8), indicated that the former dietary regulations were obsolete, and every food was considered acceptable. When failure came their way, the disciples were not to be deterred from their important task. Rather, they were to shake the dust from their feet and take the message of salvation to the next town, leaving it to God to judge those who rejected them.
Upon their return, they recounted their efforts to Jesus. His remark about Satan falling from the sky signaled the eclipse of the power of evil by the emerging kingdom of justice, right and truth. Serpents and scorpions appeared frequently in the scriptures as symbols of moral evil (Gen 3:1-4; Num 21:6-9; 1 Kings 12:11, 14). As his emissaries, the disciples would share in Jesus’ power over evil during his ministry and during the continued ministry of the church after his resurrection. To channel their enthusiasm, Jesus reminded his disciples then, as well as all subsequent disciples, that theirs was (is) a mission not of sensationalism but of salvation. Headlines may bring fleeting fame for those who capitalize on ostentatious methods and dramatic delivery. But those whose names would be written in heaven are called to a simple, humble, day-by-day, person-to-person commitment to the process of converting and transforming the world.
As Brendan Byrne has pointed out, just as Jesus’ mission flowed from his relationship with his Father, so would the disciples’ mission flow from the same intimacy they shared with Jesus (The Hospitality of God: A Reading of Luke’s Gospel, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minn.: 2000). Only this knowledge will keep them (us) strong and courageous so as to face whatever lies ahead.
From “Give us This Day”
The international fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous began in 1935 when two men, Bill W. and Dr. Bob S., met in the home of a mutual friend in Akron, Ohio. Medical professionals, friends, family members, clergy, and the men’s spouses all described Bill and Dr. Bob as “hopeless cases,” likely to die from alcoholism, a disease of the body, mind, and spirit. The key for Dr. Bob was that he found in Bill, and many other alcoholics he would encounter during the rest of days, a fellow traveler, someone who truly understood what it — alcoholism — was like. And Bill found in Dr. Bob, and countless alcoholics he would meet over the remainder of his life, someone whom he could help simply by sharing his own experience, strength, and hope.
The program of Alcoholics Anonymous, and the many 12-step fellowships that have been created over the years, are based on the principle that alcoholics and addicts stay clean and sober by reaching out to others and giving away what they have been given. It was through attraction, and not promotion, that the fellowship grew from two idealistic drunks to an organization with a presence in more than 180 countries around the globe.
In today’s Gospel text, Jesus sends 72 disciples out into the world. It is, indeed, an unusually specific numeric reference. But, perhaps more important than the number 72 is the number two. The disciples were sent out to minister in pairs.
This is good news for sure. After all, it wasn’t going to be an easy life. Lambs among wolves … no money bag, no sandals or sack to carry anything of value with you. All that the disciples had was themselves, their faith in Jesus, and their ministry partner.
In the life of discipleship, the question is not what you need but who.
We don’t walk this journey alone. We need each other — for support, encouragement, a listening ear, perhaps even advice at times. We learn from the experience of others who have walked before us, and we share our own experience with those who walk with us.
In our current context, the harvest that is in need of reaping is the tremendous pain that so many carry around each day. Our opportunity, as followers of Jesus, is to go out into the world (from the comfort of our pews and our homes) and bring with us open hearts, listening ears and a prayerful presence. With that presence, with those ears and with our hearts, we can harvest much that burdens our neighbors.
However, we will only be able to really help those who are hurting if we are authentic about the pain, we carry ourselves. In sharing our own experiences of grief, mental illness, economic insecurity, addiction, strains on our families, and other challenges that cause us hurt, others can relate. And in relating, they are not only meeting us, but meeting Jesus, who has sent us out ahead of him. People who are hurting and all of us need to know that the kingdom of God is at hand. That should not instill further fear and shame, but hope. For the kingdom of our God brings love, liberation, reconciliation, and resurrection. Too often, and for too long, we have failed to share such a hope-filled message. And now, more than ever, we need to get it right. And in so doing, by going out into the world two-by-two, we can bring hope to that hurting, bruised and broken world.
Along the way, we, too, will be helped, for just as one alcoholic helping another alcoholic keeps both sober, one hurting child of God helping another will keep both in the loving arms of their Creator. The laborers will grow, not through promotion, but through attraction, to the liberating, life-giving movement of discipleship we tend to call the church.