Scripture Readings: Book of the Prophet Isaiah 66:10-14; Saint Paul’s Letter to the Galatians 6:14-18; Gospel According to Saint Luke 10:1-12,17-20
A fundamental truth of our life in Christ is that God desires our full and willing cooperation to carry on the work of proclaiming the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. That is certainly the mandate of the Lord in the Gospel texts we hear each time we attend the Eucharist or Mass and fundamental to our Christian faith and heritage.
The loving design of our God always includes the participation of the human family in bringing about God’s work of salvation in Jesus Christ. In other words, we human beings form a body that receives redemption as a family or community. We perhaps often forget this and think of redemption more in very personal terms, as “working out my salvation,” or my “getting to heaven,” without regard for the larger family to which we belong as humans and believers in the one God.
I recently read that when someone asked a certain priest if Jesus Christ was his personal Savior, he replied, “Well, in fact I like to share him!”
Salvation in Jesus Christ is a gift of our God to the entire human race and has to do with everyone, as the Gospel so well illustrates today. As Jesus went about from place to place, town to town, he likewise sent his disciples to announce that the kingdom of God is at hand. The Lord continues to call us in our respective vocations to do likewise.
We might ask, why did the Lord send his disciples out two by two, rather than all alone? Certainly, more ground would be covered and towns visited if the seventy-two disciples were “all alone” doing God’s work. With two or more bearing witness, though, there is always a better possibility of giving testimony to the meaning of love and unity among the disciples. This reality becomes a clear form of teaching. One who is “all alone” cannot generally have the same impact.
Our Church is a community of believers. It is composed of individuals, yes, but most importantly, they form an “ecclesia,” a church or holy community (“koinonia” in Greek), constantly called to move forward together under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. As the poet John Donne expressed it, “No man is an island,” and that is just as true today as in ages past.
The apostolate of the seventy-two disciples was to be best expressed by their very presence, that is, the way they behaved and lived out their commitment to Jesus Christ and his Gospel. Their message was to be, “The reign of God is at hand,” with the admonition from the Lord to “stay in the one house eating and drinking what they have, for the laborer is worth his wage.” This is how Jesus characterized their mission.
Presence and commitment are vital to every follower of Christ, and most often that simply means bringing Christ to those with whom we live and work, day in and day out, year after year. So we do not necessarily need to go to the ends of the earth in order to be good and effective followers of Christ. Some followers of Jesus are in fact called to distant lands, but most are not.
It is important to remember that the presence of the disciples is not to be so spiritual or transcendent as to neglect the daily needs of those who are ministered to. Jesus is clear that the corporal works of mercy, which include feeding the hungry, tending the sick, and clothing the naked, are vital aspect of the Christian apostolate.
The message of the kingdom of God is at once simple and at the same time very demanding. All of the preaching of Jesus was and is centered on the theme of the kingdom of God, which includes that essential message of redemption in Jesus Christ through the shedding of his blood.
Jesus’ mission did not end with an announcement only, but with the actual establishment of God’s kingdom in the risen Christ, extending to all times, places and peoples.
We are told in the Gospel today that the disciples “returned in jubilation” to their Master after their first attempts at announcing the Good News. This is the ideal experience, though not necessarily that of every committed follower of Jesus Christ.
Sometimes disciples meet with resistance and opposition, persecution and martyrdom. These are never a reason to take flight or give up, though. With God’s ever-present grace, miracles can still occur. Even in martyrdom believers are not considered defeated, but partakers in the sufferings of Christ who bestows life on those who die in him.
Each of us should feel the urgency to act on the call from God to “go forth” as ambassadors of Jesus Christ. We are not only to announce but also to live the reality of the kingdom of God with all its demands and rewards, both in this life and in the next.
We are always to give testimony to the true meaning of unity and love, working for peace and promoting our apostolate of presence and commitment. In a word, we best proclaim the Gospel by our lives, with simple and few words perhaps, but with an efficacy that flows from a direct, sincere, concise and humble response to Jesus’ message here and now.
Abbot Christian Leisy, OSB