Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary - Cycle C
1st Reading - Isaiah 66: 10-14c
Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 66: 1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20
2nd Reading - Galatians 6:14-18
Gospel – Luke 10: 1-12, 17-20
Today’s gospel is a perfect example of why it is so important to reflect on the readings we hear at Mass each and every week. We must get into the habit of asking ourselves: What does it mean? How does it affect me, today, in my circumstances? Today we’ll begin by studying the meaning behind Luke’s words.
All of the other gospels suggest that only 12 (the disciples) were sent to preach. Luke uses the number 72, which is significant. Moses appointed 72 to serve. There were 72 people spread all over the Earth after the flood. For Luke, this work was intended for the entire world, not just the 12 tribes of Israel. All are called to serve everyone. 72 = Everybody.
Our understanding of modern hospitality does not resemble the hospitality expected or experienced by these 72 missionaries. In ancient times, hospitality was extended to male, strangers only. The kindness you would show to your friends and family was considered “steadfast love.” Hospitality was more duty bound. It literally could mean safety or danger, feast or famine, life or death.
The primary mission of these 72 individuals was to cure the sick (despite the threat) and to bring peace to all who would accept peace. It's important to understand that they had to heal first. It was only after healing had been provided that the message of the Kingdom of God could be received. We don’t consider ourselves healers (unless we work in the medical field). Most of us think of that work being left to the medical professionals. But for anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of generous service during illness and injury, you know that even the simplest act of kindness can mean a world of difference in recovery. Those dishes are not going to wash themselves. Often, the "cure" we can offer is to let the suffering person know that we are praying for them. Sometimes individuals are too ill to pray for themselves and can find comfort in knowing that someone is taking care of that also.
I have never seen a demon cast out of someone, but this was not a foreign concept to the ancient Mediterranean people. Their interaction with spirits and demons was commonplace and not out of the ordinary. The hierarchy looked like something like this:
gods or sons of God
Non-humans – I.e., angels, spirits, demons
With this belief, individuals were able to control what was beneath them. It was considered not impossible to command a higher being, but it was very rare. The concept of casting out demons was perfectly acceptable. The question was in the authorization. They questioned the authority of the individual casting out the evil. Did it his power come from God or Satan?
Unless you’ve been around agriculture, the idea of harvest and laborers may be foreign. Any modern-day farmer will readily pick up on these examples. Harvest, of any kind, is directly tied to time. There is a particular amount of time that a crop needs to reach maturity before it can be used for another purpose. There is also a predetermined amount of time that allows for the actual act of harvesting. This is not a task that can be put off for another day. There is no room for procrastination in harvesting. There is a sense of urgency. Harvesting also implies that work has been done ahead of time. You can’t reap oats that were never sown into the ground. Someone had to plant the seed.
Ultimately, this gospel is a model of service: what needs to be done and how to do it. The mission is to be done by everyone for the benefit of everyone. We have to help and cure first and then proclaim the Kingdom of God. We are to ask for help, rely on God, and avoid procrastination. We are also called to accept the generosity offered to us because we deserve it. Often, this is the most challenging task for those committed to a life of service. And finally, we are not to get too excited about our ability to perform acts that seemingly give us power. Instead, we are to rejoice in the heavenly glory we will receive by following the commands of Jesus.
What unique gifts has God given you for the benefit of others?
Have you ever fallen into the trap of believing that the gifts God gives are your own personal and permanent prosperity?
How do you and your Christian community, as followers sent by Jesus, interpret that Commission?
What is your particular mission?