FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (2022)- FOURTH OF JULY WEEKEND
Psalms 66:1-7, 16, 20
Luke 10:1-12, 17-20
Today’s gospel might appear to give us “apothegm overload!” Apothegms appear throughout the gospels, and they are short, pithy sayings, most often attributed to Jesus. They sometimes give the gospels a feeling of ‘stream of consciousness,’ as though the writers, or subsequent editors, squeeze a sentence in because they feel it is important for it to be remembered, regardless of its connection to preceding or following sentences. In other words, there seems to be a lot going on in today’s gospel. Let’s see what we can find to take away.
As the gospel opens, Jesus appoints “seventy-two others (in addition to the apostles?) whom He sent ahead of Him in pairs to every town and place He intended to visit.” We have a sense that the apostles stay close to Jesus. They are His groupies, His bodyguards, the people with whom He shares His most intimate moments. What Jesus needs is an advance guard, believers who will pique the interest of those inhabiting the towns and villages where Jesus intends to visit. Jesus understands that He has a short time to fulfill His desire to preach the gospel to the ends of the known earth. It would help if there were thirty-six people in different places saying “you gotta hear this preacher Jesus” when He comes to town. The seventy-two are human versions of the pamphlets and advertisements that didn’t exist in Jesus’ day!
More importantly, the seventy-two represent Jesus’ awareness that if His kingdom is to be established on earth, if it’s to be given its best chance of survival, the Son of God needs help. The apostles, the seventy-two, and the innumerable women we meet from time to time in the gospels, are all part of a planned strategy to spread the good news far and wide. We are the ancestors of those same people, and we too are meant to be evangelists, men and women who introduce others to the good news of Jesus.
Last evening I had the wonderful opportunity of watching the marvelous 1986 movie, THE MISSION. It is the true story of the Jesuit’s attempt to evangelize the primitive Guarani tribe in South America. Jeremy Irons plays the young Jesuit, Father Gabriel, called to take over when the previous Jesuit in charge is killed by the natives. He is successful at winning over the Guarani tribe and they build a striking Mission in this most foreign of territories. A sub-plot involves the person of General Mendoza, played by Robert De Niro, a mercenary soldier working for Portugal and Spain to wipe the tribe out, and who is grieving his murder of his brother. He chooses to do penance, and when that penance comes to an end Father Gabriel merely hands him a copy of the New Testament and tells him to read it. After Mendoza is finished, he asks to become a Jesuit, and spends the rest of his life defending the Guarani tribe from the Church, Portugal and Spain.
The real life Jesuits portrayed in the movie were also the ancestors of the seventy-two in today’s gospel, spreading the redeeming word of God in spite of the interference of the Church and State. Their names are surely “written in heaven.”
Gracing the cover of The Mission DVD, are words by the director of the movie, Roland Joffe, in 2002, words written shortly after the collapse of the World Trade Center. On this Fourth of July weekend the word might continue to inspire.
“The events. Portrayed in this movie really happened.
Probably not exactly in the way we show, but something
very close to it. It was a simple but harrowing story about
Political realities vs. all that’s best in human nature. We’re
a strange animal, so often destroying what we love for
selfish ends, and yet tantalized by the sense that there are
other choices if only we had the strength to make them. In
the politics of 400 years ago, we find the same questions
we battle with today.”
Happy Fourth of July! The annual celebration of our country’s independence gives us ample opportunity to come to a fuller appreciation of how lucky we are to live, and, most of us, grow up in this country. Around the world people do not enjoy the freedoms we enjoy, and in many places there are people being persecuted for their faith. Whether we are celebrating or just commemorating the day quietly, let us remember those places in the world scarred by war, and let us pray for a true and lasting peace in our world. At a time when some of the most fundamental principles of our democracy, let us pray for the triumph of truth and justice, and may God raise up men and women with the “strength” to do what is right.