FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (2019)
Psalms 66:1-7, 16, 20
Luke 10:1-12, 17-20
Today’s gospel passage from Luke gives us a glimpse of a God in need. It might strike us as odd that the Almighty and All-powerful King of the Universe would be dependent on mere mortals to get His message heard in the highways and byways of the known world, but that is precisely what Jesus needed. Once the Son of God took on human flesh He would be subject to all the constraints of time and space, and since there was no telephone or telegraph in Jesus’ day, He would have to rely on His disciples to broadly spread the good news that He came into this world to preach and teach. Given the advertisement posted by Jesus, it is amazing anyone answered His call.
The “abundant harvest” was daunting enough with so “few” workers, but to warn the disciples that they would be like “lambs among wolves” could not have inspired a great deal of confidence in those who decided to ‘give it a try.’ The message was the same whether people were receptive or hostile towards the disciples: “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” If the people were less than friendly, the disciples were not to argue or fight, they were simply called to shake the dust of that town off their feet. The success of the disciples’ mission was not dependent on them, for it was the God who called them and sent them that would give the increase. It was the Spirit of God who would till the soil of hearts and make them places where the Word that was planted there could grow.
We might want to ask, what was required of the disciples entrusted with the responsibility of spreading the good news? There appears to be no orientation policy for their mission, and there is no evidence that Jesus gave them a catechism to keep them from falling into error. It is enough for Jesus that His disciples announce “The Kingdom of God is at hand for you,” and, that they might know that that Kingdom is present, they are to heal and “cure the sick.” The mission of the seventy-two was a mission of presence. They could accomplish so much just being present to the people that they visited, listening to their stories, healing them of their hurts and illnesses, journeying with them in God’s stead. It is assumed that whatever contact they had had with Jesus equipped them to live their lives in such a way that they proclaimed the good news, and demonstrated the primacy of love and forgiveness in all of life’s situations.
We are the successors of the seventy-two disciples in Luke’s gospel, for we too are called to mission, we are called to announce that “the Kingdom of God is at hand.” For most of us, that proclamation is by our mere presence to the other. We are called less to preach with our lips, and more to preach with our lives. When we reach out to the scorned and marginalized, when we assist the migrant and the poor, when we choose peace over violence, when we exalt truth over falsehood, forgiveness over vengeance, love over hate, life over death, it is then that we proclaim the Kingdom of God in our midst. It is then that we continue the job the seventy-two disciples started on the pages of Scripture.
In the Eucharist we draw as close to God as is humanly possible, and we further the possibility of God’s Word being born in our hearts. May this, and every celebration of the Eucharist, strengthen us to become true ministers of presence, leading others to know the love of Christ Jesus just by the way we live our lives.