14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In today’s Gospel Jesus gives instructions to his disciples concerning the missionary task to which he is sending them. He tells them that the undertaking is urgent, that they are to do it in a spirit of detachment; they are to rely not on material resources but solely on God. The message Jesus entrusts to his disciples is: The reign of God is at hand. Jesus knows the hostility it will provoke. That is why he warns them: I am sending you as lambs in the midst of wolves.
It would be a mistake to dismiss Jesus’ instructions as irrelevant for usi Like those first disciples, we too are Jesus’ messengers. It was clear last Sunday that Jesus was calling other persons to be his close followers in addition to the apostles. Today, it is clear that, in addition to the Twelve Apostles, there were still 72 “others” whom Jesus sent forth in his name to fulfill certain tasks connected with his mission. Obviously, these 72 could not have been ordained priests, nor could they have been vowed religious sisters or brothers; at that time there were no such people. They were lay people. Men and women, though the Gospel does not say. Yet shortly before this incident, St. Luke records that many others -three women are mentioned by name- were assisting the apostles.
It is interesting to note that the Lord was calling and using lay people in his mission from the earliest hours. They were people like you: mother, or college student, or retired carpenter, or dedicated teacher, or loyal janitor; or you: moms and dads who teach prayers to your children at bedside, etc. etc. In a multitude of examples, all of them are announcing, The kingdom of God is near. Everyone of us has been commissioned in baptism for this task. A task that, like theirs, is urgent. And we are to perform it with detachment: we are to rely not on our own strength, cleverness, or material resources, but solely upon God.
In today’s readings, Isaiah and Jesus call for evangelization, that is, bringing the Good News to the lonely, the estranged and the alienated. There are at least 12 million alienated Catholics in the US; the reasons for such alienation are numerous. The Prophet and the Savior summon us to reach out and touch them, and invited them to come back home. We should be ready to listen while they pour out their hurt. We should inform them about the true teachings of the Church and her clear message of love.
Today, as always, Jesus demands a option: either for him or against him. Taking such a option is urgent, and it is not a purely private affair. Jesus asks us to take a stand for him so that we may be his messengers, inviting others to decide for the Lord. One fruit of this decision is the inner peace that comes to those who freely submit to God’s rule in their lives. That is why Jesus indicated his first messengers, in today’s Gospel, to greet people with the words: Peace to this house. The Lord’s power is made known in lasting peace.
Jesus sends his disciples off in pairs. They are to be for each other a source of encouragement and strength, especially when the journey is long and tiring. Like those early seventy-two disciples, we too are now sent by Jesus down the same road with the same message. Like them, we can expect opposition and rejection, but bringing his message of peace and love to our world is our role as his followers. The document Evangelium Vitae details specific duties for us, in this time when such evils as abortion and euthanasia mount so many threats, and the evil of contraception, which is a fruit of the same tree (#13). In this mobilization for a new culture of life, no one ought to feel excluded: everyone has an important role to play (#98). And like the disciples sent by Jesus, we surely will return with joy from our pro-Christ, pro-Life efforts, rejoicing not in our human ability, but in the graces received and shared with others.