Nothing is stronger than ‘an idea whose time has come’. Jesus came among us announcing that ‘the kingdom of God is at hand’. By his words and works he clearly communicated God’s will for humanity. In order to reach out to as many as possible, Jesus developed a method of mobile preaching that accessed many people in short time. We need to sustain the same style.
First reading: Isaiah 66:10-14
In this reading Isaiah is featured preaching to his contemporaries regarding the end of their exile and the glorious home coming at the same time envisioning the movement of the rest of the world towards Jerusalem. The arrival of new comers would stream the wealth of the nations through the gates of the restored city. The people of Jerusalem were to welcome all who came in search of God even if they had been influenced by the Babylonian exile. Not only would those who had been estranged from all they held dear be welcomed home, they would be comforted and richly nourished like a baby at its loving mother’s breast.
Isaiah described this wondrous homecoming as a sign of “God’s power” Isaiah 66:14 to forgive, to save, to renew, reconcile and reinstate. We can compare this touching scene as ‘a peak of tenderness’ cherishing expressions of God’s love for sinful humankind. Initially it was Jerusalem who would mothers and nurses her child cf. Isaiah 66:13, but now it is the Lord who parents and comforts His people. Having been so blessed by God, Jerusalem was to become for all other peoples the symbol of God’s love and forgiveness. Then the wonder of the river that the prophet sees in a vision foretells prosperity. In an area where water was a precious commodity, rivers, streams and seasonal rains were received as true blessings from God. The vision of the river signified the well-being and wealth that God would provide for the returnees.
Second reading: Galatians 6:14-18
While Isaiah offered his Sixth century B.C. audience a vision of a loving mother who comforts and feeds her beloved child, Paul shared a much more sobering symbol of God’s love as the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. For Paul, the Cross was not merely the instrument of Jesus’ death. The Cross was the whole salvific process of the Christ-event from Incarnation to glorification. Without the Cross of Jesus the rest held no importance. To express his detachment, he wrote, “The world has been crucified to me and I to the world” Galatians 6:14. ‘The world’, for Paul was anything that stood in enmity with God refusing gifts of grace and salvation won by Jesus. Included in the category of the world were Paul’s opponents who were accusing him of not preaching the true gospel. These enemies of the Cross insisted that circumcision was necessary for salvation. Paul clarified that such insistence was tantamount to suggesting that the Cross of Christ was somehow lacking and needed to be supplemented a reason that he refuted. The Cross of Jesus was sufficient for the salvation of all of humankind.
Since he had come to know Christ and the Cross on the road to Damascus, Paul regarded himself as a new creation and glorifying in the joy of being one with Christ. Paul identified himself with the Cross stating ‘I bear the marks of Jesus on my body’. The old world no longer held any authority over him because by his participation in the Cross of Jesus had made him step into a brand-new world of grace. Those who live in this new world and follow its canon enjoy God’s peace and mercy. Drawn to Christ yet attracted by the world, one must make a choice for him alone. This choice may face conflict, affliction, self-doubt and uncertainty, but no turning back. When Paul was plagued by such doubts and uncertainties, he did not look at himself for the strength but to Christ and his Cross and found reason to persevere.
Gospel Luke 10:1-12, 17-20
Long before the ascending Jesus commissioned his disciples to preach in his name “to all the nations” Luke 24:47. In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ instructions made it clear that his followers were being called to live as he did, simply and detached from any basic security other than their relationship with him. His instructions also echoed similar directives that God had given to the prophets in the past cf. 2Kings 4:24, whose task the disciples were now continuing. Comparing their efforts to those of harvesters, Jesus drew upon a popular theme from the Scriptures where the harvest functioned as a metaphor for the messianic judgment cf. Amos 9:13-15. The reign of God had come near in Jesus, so the disciples were to work with an urgency that was reflected in the sparseness of their gear and their perseverance in bringing the good news to as many as would welcome their message. By speaking their greeting Shalom! Peace!’ in every place they visited the disciples were announcing that salvation had come to that home. Peace and salvation are repeatedly referenced together throughout Luke’s Gospel as two aspects of the one gift that has come to humankind through Jesus cf. Luke 1:19.
Announcing God’s gift did not mean that it would be automatically accepted. On this Jesus is quite clear: His disciples would experience the same hardships, rejection and persecution as he did; yet they were to remain undaunted like him. They were to pick themselves up, shake the dust from their feet and begin again with the next home and village. Jesus’ followers were not permitted to carry any traveling amenities or luggage, nor were they to be burdened by the baggage of bad experiences. Rather, they were to surrender themselves wholeheartedly to the journey of discipleship and their ministry as evangelists and healers. Because of their commitment, Jesus’ disciples would have to adhere to priorities and would be less preoccupied with their security and comforts.
When the disciples returned to give an account, they were overwhelmed by their success. In the struggle against evil, they had shared in the very power of Jesus. They had been able to cast out the demons of pain, sickness, ignorance and evil. Jesus met their excitement with the news that he had seen Satan falling from the sky, thereby alluding to the Jewish tradition that envisioned Satan in the throne room of heaven bartering with God over the well-being of humankind cf. Job 2:1. This process begun by Jesus and sustained by his disciple must be continued by us now. Today’s Gospel offers us the opportunity to reassess our service, rethink our priorities and renew our enthusiasm. Only the kingdom of God assures us great rejoicing.
God is giving us another chance to subscribe to His Kingdom, let us embrace it as a moment of grace. Jesus is has come armed with the Cross to Grant us victory, let us not lose sight of it. Like the first disciples we ought to make a choice for Jesus, let us not turn back. We who have been blessed like the seventy whom Jesus sent forth are to spread the good news that the kingdom has come near and is drawing power from God; let us no miss the opportunity.