– Sunday, 3rd July –
14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel reading: Luke 10:1-12,17-20
vs.1 The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit.
vs.2 He said to them, “The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.
vs.3 Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.
vs.4 Cary no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road.
vs.5 Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, ‘Peace to this house!’
vs.6 And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you.
vs.7 Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house.
vs.8 Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you.
vs.9 Cure those in it who are sick, and say, ‘The kingdom of God is very near to you.’
vs.10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not make you welcome, go out into its streets and say.
vs.11 ‘We wipe off the very dust of your town that clings to our feet, and leave it with you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God is very near.’
vs.12 I tell you, on that day it will not go as hard with Sodom as with that town.
vs.17 The seventy-two came back rejoicing. ‘Lord,’ they said ‘even the devils submit to us when we use your name.’
vs.18 he said to them, “I watched Satan fall like lightning from heaven.
vs.19 Yes, I have given you power to tread underfoot serpents and scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy; nothing shall ever hurt you.
vs.20 Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.”
We have four commentators available from whom you may wish to choose .
Michel DeVerteuil : A Trinidadian Holy Ghost Priest, director of the Centre of Biblical renewal .
Thomas O’Loughlin: Professor of Historical Theology, University of Wales, Lampeter.
Sean Goan: Studied scripture in Rome, Jerusalem and Chicago and teaches at Blackrock College and works with Le Chéile.
Donal Neary SJ: Editor of The Sacred Heart Messenger
Michel de Verteuil
Lectio Divina The Year of Luke
General Textual Comments
In order to make a fruitful meditation on this passage, we must set ourselves some guidelines.
The first is that the seventy-two who were sent out by Jesus to go “ahead of him to all the towns and places he himself was to visit” represent all of us in our different vocations. As spouses, parents, teachers, ministers in the church community, friends, spiritual guides, political or civic leaders, we open the way for others to meet God, “go ahead of him”. Jesus’ instructions can help us become life-giving in our deep relationships.
The second is that we must not read the passage in a moralizing way, as if it is imposing a burden on us. Like all Bible passages, it invites us to celebrate with joy, humility and gratitude those, including ourselves, who have lived Jesus’ instructions in practice. We have also failed to live
them out of course, and from that perspective, the passage calls us, in communion with the whole Church and all humanity, to conversion and repentance.
Thirdly we must enter into the highly imaginative language of the passage, allowing it to touch us even as it speaks to our reality. Two mistakes are to be avoided therefore: to “interpret” the language so rationally that it no longer speaks to our emotions; to romanticize the passage so that it is not connected to real life.
The image of approaching people as a “rich harvest” (the same as telling them, “the kingdom of God is very near to you”) is very touching and radical, but must be correctly interpreted. It speaks of approaching others not as objects of pity, but in admiration, aware of how much we can learn from them.
The attitude is especially important for missionaries and all who work in transcultural situations. Unfortunately it has not been the most common approach among church workers, neither in the past nor today.
There is an important message for those who hold leadership positions at local and national level. So often they don’t trust the creativity of their communities.
Verses 4 and 5 evoke very dramatically the process of discarding prejudices, necessary if we are to meet people in their reality as a rich harvest.
“Lambs among wolves” tells us of the simplicity (to be distinguished from naïveté) this requires. It is the same as being “poor in spirit.” “No purse, no haversack, no sandals” means getting rid of mental baggage, especially cultural; “salute no one on the road” is not deciding beforehand who we are going to admire.
Verse 6 reminds us that we must be free in ourselves, if our relationships are to be life-giving. Knowing that if our peace is rejected, it will “come back to us” saves us from being co-dependent.
Verses 7 and 8, “stay in the same house,” and “eat what is set before you,” warn against giving ourselves half-heartedly and keeping an eye out for more attractive relationships.
Verses 10 and 11 raise the crucial issue of how to deal with rejection. Experience teaches that rejection brings out the baser motives which lurk beneath even our noble relationships. “Wiping the dust off our feet” is a powerful description of the inner freedom by which we can move on to new commitments.
The basis of this inner freedom is to “be sure that the kingdom of God is very near.”
Lord, we thank you for the people you send out ahead of you to all the
towns and places you yourself are to visit:
– by loving their children parents open them up to your unconditional love
– spouses lift each other to a new plane of trustfulness
– good neighbours bring the hope of new possibilities to a neighbourhood
– those weighed down by troubles feel a surge of energy within them
as they experience the care of friends or the listening ear of their spiritual guides
– societies are inspired by their leaders
– men and women like Mother Teresa, Mandela and Gandhi
show the world humanity’s potential for greatness.
We thank you that Jesus’ instructions are fulfilled in such people.
We note how he sends them in pairs,
males and females complementing one another,
male and female elements combined within each of them.
Whereas we tend to approach people in need
– as problems that we must solve,
– as less fortunate than ourselves and to be pitied,
– as helpless unless we rescue them,
they see in others, whatever their condition,
an abundant harvest waiting to be reaped;
if there is a problem, it is that there are too few labourers
and they must ask the Lord of the harvest to send others to reap with them.
Lord we thank you for those who came to us with openness, who did not
– try to bring us to their point of view
– prove that we were wrong
– insist that their way was the only one.
Like Jesus, they were humble and trusting like lambs among wolves.
Lord we thank you for the great missionaries of the church,
who came to other cultures without baggage,
without ambition or power-seeking, or looking to found an empire.
They carried no purse, no haversack, no sandals,
and had no pre-conceived ideas on who they would salute on the road.
We pray that when we give our peace to others, we will do so unreservedly,
not overly concerned about whether or not we will succeed,
trusting that if they are people of peace, our peace will rest on them,
and if they are not, we will not feel that we have wasted our energy,
since our peace will come back to us.
Forgive us, Lord, that we spend so much time regretting
that those to whom you send us do not live up to our expectations,
so that we end up moving from house to house, if only in our minds.
Teach us to be life-giving wherever we find ourselves,
staying in the same house, taking whatever food and drink are offered us,
eating what is set before us.
Lord, when rejection by those we serve weighs us down
so that we don’t have the energy to make a new start,
it tells us that our service was really a way of affirming ourselves.
We pray that whenever we enter a town and they do not make us welcome,
we will be able to go out into its streets,
say that we wipe off the very dust of the town that clings to our feet
and leave it with them while we move on to other places and people.
What will keep us free from resentment and bitterness
is knowing that your kingdom is very near.
Liturgical Resources for Year C (Luke)
Introduction to the Celebration
When we think of Jesus preaching we think of people flocking to hear him, just as today we gather to re-affirm our identity as his people gathered now at his table. But in today’s gospel we hear of people being sent out from Jesus to prepare his way before him. We gather now, but we are also the people he has charged to prepare his way in the world today. To be a disciple is not only to follow, but to go ahead of the Lord announcing his presence. Let us reflect on these twin aspects of being Christians: following the Lord, and presenting the Lord to the world. We are called not only to be ‘disciples’ but ‘apostles’.
Gospel: Lk 10:1-12; 17-20
This story in Luke shows us the variety of ways each evangelist molded the tradition he received to formulate his narrative within his individual overall theology. Most of 10:1-12 can be found somewhere in Matthew, but here it is gathered into one story. Then there is the cursing of Chorazin and Bethsaida for their unbelief (also found in Matthew), and then the return of the seventy-two which completes the story (10:17-20) which is only found in Luke. However, while Luke’s aim was to join all this material into a unified and memorable story, there were, and still are, several bad junctions between the various bits that he used. Perhaps the worst such junction was the portion of information on Chorazin and Bethsaida (verses 13-16, paralleled in Mt 11:21-23 and Mt 10:40) which broke up the story of the seventy-two, and which has very wisely been excised from the lection today to give a much more harmonious and comprehensible text. However, other bad junctions remain: for instance, only Luke mentions Jesus sending out seventy-two to prepare the way, yet once these are sent out (and one has no suspicion that there is any shortage of people to send out), we are immediately told to pray that there would be enough labourers for the harvest! (an item that makes perfect sense in the location it occupies in Matthew at 9:37).
The focus of Luke’s story can only be appreciated within his overall preaching (gospel and Acts) which is to locate the life of the church within the pattern of the spread of the good news: from Christ, to Jerusalem, to the surrounding areas, then out to the ends of the earth. This task is the work of Providence in human history (therefore, no haversack, etc.); and it is into this, the mightiest work of God, that the church is inserted. The whole church is, in effect, the seventy-two. This good news is then encapsulated in ‘the kingdom is near’ and the apostles, i.e. everyone in the churches, can rejoice not in their powers or status as Christians but because their names are written in heaven.
One technical point may come up from those who hear this gospel, if read from the lectionary today: how many were sent out? The Lectionary follows the Jerusalem Bible here which on this occasion opts for ‘seventy-two’ (and which thereby is in agreement with the Vulgate which reads septuaginta duos), in contrast to which most modern translations (e.g. RSV, NRSV) read ‘seventy.’ The problem is that the textual evidence is almost perfectly divided between the two numbers, so much so that some modern Greek editions go for this fudge: ‘seventy [twol’. The question that should be asked is which of the two numbers is more likely to be particularly symbolic for Luke? To that question, ‘seventy’ wins hands down, and there are almost no examples of ‘seventy two’ being a symbolic number. However, I personally am very glad that ‘seventy-two’ is in the lectionary text. The retention of this textual curiosity may provoke some of its hearers to ask interesting questions about the ecclesial origins and nature of the texts we read.
1. For much of the twentieth century, many of the key words in the vocabulary of lay organisations in the church was related to the word ‘apostle’ such as ‘apostolate,’ ‘apostleship’, or ‘apostolic [activity]’. This is a word that we sometimes see less often today and words like ‘ministry’ and ‘discipleship’ have a greater prominence. This is, in itself, a very good development for each of these three words, ‘ministry’, ‘apostleship’, and ‘discipleship’, each picks out a particular aspect of the whole complex of what we are called to do as Christians. An active Christian life always involves service to the community, it requires following and imitating, but it also requires a going out, a making present of the Lord in the world. It is this third aspect, this sending out, that is the focus today.
2. In the whole of the mystery of Christ there is a ‘ripple principle’ at work. The image is that of a stone entering a lake and then the effects go out in concentric circles, getting wider and wider, until they reach the very edge. The whole surface of the lake is transformed as the ripples spread ever outwards. This is ‘like’ the entry of the Christ into the creation and then the effect of his coming keeps spreading outwards over the whole of the world and the whole of time.
3. This ripple principle forms the overall architecture of Luke’s preaching: the Lord comes among us, then he forms a group who are sent out bringing his message ever outwards, then the Lord ascends on high and his message spreads out through the apostolic preaching: first, in Jerusalem, then in Judea and Samaria, and then ‘to the ends of the earth’. This gospel presents this pattern in a nutshell.
4. We today are called to bring the ripple effect of our encounter with Jesus Christ outwards. We are the group who have to show within the places we live that ‘the kingdom of God is near.’
5. But there is a constant danger: we often think that ‘the apostolic life’ is something that we can delegate to a few specialists: full time ‘apostles’ or ‘missionaries in foreign lands’ or those who live ‘the religious life’. Every individual is called in a specific way to spread the word and to bring the presence of Christ into the world – only some are called to do so in a ‘high profile’ way. We are called to be apostles in our baptism; we cannot delegate the responsibility. Rather we must search out the precise way that each of us is called to be an apostle – whether it is high or low profile – and how we each can make ourselves better fitted to the precise place and moment in the history of salvation where each is called to be the rippling presence of God.
Let the Reader Understand
Although Jesus is fully aware that his journey to Jerusalem will end in his passion and death, he is also aware that the mission to proclaim the good news is one that must be continued. In Luke’s gospel, which is probably more Gentile than the others, the theme of the universality of Jesus’ message is more to the fore. We can see one of the ways that is shown in the fact that seventy two disciples are sent out to prepare the way for him. In the ancient world it was believed that there were seventy two nations on earth and so this is symbolic of a mission to the whole world.
Two things are striking in the story: one is the simple urgency of the task of proclaiming the message. Some will accept it, others will not, but their rejection of the message should not be on account of any failing on the part of the messengers. The other striking feature is their success. They rejoice on their return because they know that are participating in the ultimate struggle of good over evil. In sharing their joy, however, Jesus reminds them that it is not about them but about God working through them and that should be the source of their joy. It is a call to humility.
As we come to the end of Galatians, one can’t help feeling that Paul is somewhat tired and even downcast at the thought that all his work among these people was being so seriously undermined. At the same time he is a realist and he is under no illusions about the difficulties involved in being true to the gospel. This in turn brings him to one of his greatest insights. As followers of Jesus we are indeed a new creation but our coming to birth is not painless so we should not be surprised when we are asked to share in the passion of the one who brings us to life. Unlike Paul and the seventy two, we may not always understand exactly where our mission lies but in the daily struggle to be faithful to Jesus and the gospel we know that our names are written in heaven and that is a reason to rejoice.
4. Donal Neary S.J.
Gospel reflections for Year C: Luke
Hand over to God
In the smallest of the details of our love and the biggest God is near. God is near with love and also with care. We might think of it as a powerful care – power not for himself but for us.
God’s Power enables us to do what we can’t do ourselves, like people in AA who hand their lives over to the higher power each day. Sometimes we find when we are at our lowest God is at his strongest in our lives. Augustine wrote that when we love ourselves least, God loves us most.
Where do we find him, or rather where does God find us? God is present in all things – we don’t have to go to Church or read the bible to find God, as God is present to us in many ways. God is in all of creation – love and friendship, a sunset or sunrise. His hand is in our food and drink, our work, study, reflection and insights. He is ever present in our efforts to live well, to stay clean of drugs, alcohol or crime. God is in the midst of real life and in the centre of the soul is a space where nobody can enter without our welcome and invitation, and where God dwells.
When we see Jesus in action we know the kingdom is very near.
At Christmas we welcomed the kingdom, in the love for the poor, in the miracle of human birth.
At Easter we welcomed the kingdom as the place of eternity, of victory over death and pain, of justice over injustice. All the time welcoming the kingdom whose real power is love and whose hope still today is the coming of justice and peace.
Lord may your kingdom come
and your will be done on Earth.