7th July 2013. 14th Sunday of Year C.
Is 66:10-14. After the Exile, Jerusalem is like a mother nursing her child at the breast.
Gal 6:14-18. Paul bears the marks of Christ’s passion on his body.
Lk 10:1-12,17-20. Jesus sent them out to share in his powerful ministry.
Kieran O’Mahony OSA observes that “This Sunday, the first reading is quite remarkable, even though it has only a tiny echo in the Gospel (joy / rejoice). Because of the rich feminine images therein, it may provide an opportunity to speak in a general way of our images of God, how we approach the mystery as whole human beings, in touch with both our masculine and feminine sides. In any case, it merits at least a special introduction, so that people can really “hear” the reading.” See also his talk on cultural Catholicism at http://www.icatholic.ie/videos/spiritfest-omahony-cultural-catholicism and his textual commentary on today’s readings at http://www.tarsus.ie/page6/index.html
First Reading: Isaiah 66:10-14
Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her- that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast; that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious bosom. For thus says the Lord: I will extend prosperity to her like river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse and be carried on her arm, and dandled on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice; your bodies shall flourish like the grass; and it shall be known that the hand of the Lord is with his servants, and his indignation is against his enemies.
Second Reading: Galatians 6:14-18
May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! As for those who will follow this rule – peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
From now on, let no one make trouble for me; for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.
Gospel: Luke 10:1-12, 17-20
or, shorter version: 10:1-9
After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’
But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’ And I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.
The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
What kind of Peace is this?
One word – “Peace” – dominates today’s readings. In Isaiah peace flows like a river through the landscape of the future. Paul, speaking to the Galatians, to the background of divisions in the community, promises peace to all who follow Christ. In our gospel, when sending his disciples out, Jesus tells them that their first message to every house must be: “Peace to this house.”
But even as the word is spoken you sense the reluctance of the world to receive it. Even the reluctance and inability of the Christians to live it out, to give it more than lip service. The divisions are obvious in the epistle. Some in the Church want to retain the Jewish circumcision, others view it as a sign of the past. Every age in the Church has its own moments of crisis, its own dividing lines. These may be small issues or large ones. Every community has its breaking point. These may be in the hearts of the best believers. In the gospel we see the disciples returning filled with joy from their success. They are boasting of their success, proud of their preaching and living. Christians are, too often, marked by an arrogance of belief. They look down on others. Such pride swallows the Christ who preached poverty of spirit. It leaves us less compassionate before a world which needs to know the compassion of Christ.
Behind all these readings is the idea and reality of service. The joyful hymn of Isaiah can only be heard in its full glory when we hear the suffering servant singing it. Its promised peace emerges from the insights and love of someone who has suffered the divisions and hatreds of the world and reconciled them in himself. Paul puts this with woeful clarity: “The only thing I can boast about is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.”
The cross of Christ reveals two things about the world: First, the intense love of Christ for the people of the earth; and second, how divided and broken that world is. Religions go their proud way. Empires and political powers set their own agendas and punish all who question their power over human life and its use and abuse. To remain peacemakers we must remain true to the cross. The poverty and brokenness of Christ on Calvary is the model of how we are in the world. We must live that poverty of spirit: “no purse, no haversack, no sandals.” We must never become proud and arrogant. Christ is a humility before the pride of the world. Christ is free love before the necessities of the powerful. Even those who reject Christ must be loved – their nearness to his Kingdom must remain our message.
We can only do this in an often cruel world by retaining our faith, hope and love. Among the wolves of a Calvary world the lambs must remain true to themselves. Our faith in a Christ who died out of love for us all. Our hope is that his faith and love are the source of our peace. Our belief is that by our living out of God’s love of the world and its people the Kingdom of peace will be given to us all.
Our Scriptures show us the Church and world as they are. More importantly they reveal what they might be had we but the faith, the hope and the love of Christ.
Going out Two by Two
The gospel has Jesus sending his disciples out to do his work. He instructs them, and gives them definite directions. We then read what happened when they returned to him to report on how they got on.
At election times we get the literature in the post, through the mailbox, or we have someone call to the door. Those who call to the door usually travel in twos. They have been well briefed, and they have their presentation ready. They are representing the one seeking election, and, therefore, they ensure that they remain faithful to the political manifesto of that person or party. If not every day, then certainly every week, they return to headquarters to report on how they got on. Today’s gospel, of course, is about much more than seeking votes in an election, but there are some similarities.
There is so much teaching in today’s gospel that we are forced to be selective. Firstly, we note that he sent them out in pairs. He called each one individually. He never asked the five thousand to follow him, after he had fed them with the loaves and fish. While he called each one personally, he never sent an apostle out alone. There are but two incidents in the gospels when an apostle went out alone: one was to betray him, the other ended up denying him. Community support is essential to living the gospel. Even a hermit has to be commissioned by a Christian Community, and must continue to be in touch with that group.
Jesus told the apostles that he was sending them out like lambs among wolves. That wasn’t encouraging! His disciples had a choice. They could conform to the world, and preach a message that made people more comfortable in their complacency; or they could preach the message of Jesus, that was bound to be opposed, because it called for fundamental change. Many years later St John wrote in his first letter “The people who belong to this world speak from the world’s viewpoint, and the world listens to them. But we belong to God; that is why those who know God listen to us. If they do not belong to God they do not listen to us. That is how we know if someone has the spirit of truth or the spirit of deception.”
It is encouraging to listen to the enthusiasm of the disciples when they returned. They had obeyed Jesus, and it worked. His promise to them was vindicated. They discovered that the call to mission contained the power to effect that mission. Jesus went even further in assuring them that he had given them full authority over all the power of the evil one, and that their names were registered as citizens of heaven.
The gospel is in between two phrases. The first is “Come and see,” and the last is “Go and tell.” If I have come and seen, I will want to go and tell. There is a difference between witnessing and evangelising. We are all called to witness, but not all are called to evangelise. Many of us would die a thousand deaths if we were called to stand on a box in Hyde Park, and preach to the passers-by! We can all witness, through the example of our lives. Christianity is about attracting rather than promoting.
To be involved in the work of the Lord is to be involved with others of a similar vision. If there is no involvement, there will be no commitment. I cannot be a member of the Body of Christ, and fly solo. My foot cannot go off for a walk on its own. The whole body must be involved in the exercise. This does not mean that everybody should be doing the same thing, or that all should be involved in each single undertaking. There are ministries and missions; there are gifts, talents, and charisms. The gift of some is in organisation; of others in prayer ministries; of others in ministering to the sick, the marginalised, or the least of the brethren.
The words at the end of today’s gospel are addressed to each one of us. Jesus does give us his power. We are empowered to do his work, and to work in his name. His call is an anointing call, and we are sent with his authority. We have the power if we are willing to supply the goodwill. Jesus assures us that we have a passport, visa, and “green card” for heaven. Our names are already registered there. We are saved, and our mission is to proclaim the good news of salvation to others.
Imagine there were only 100 people on this earth, all in one village. On today’s facts, 67 of them would be poor, while 33 of them would be comparatively well off. 93 of them would have to watch while 7 of them spend half the money, have half the bathtubs, and eat one third of the food, and have ten times as many doctors looking after them as the other 93 all together. That is not the real problem, though, from our point of view. The real problem is when the 7 have the nerve and the gall to attempt to evangelise the 93! They tell them about the wonderful Saviour they have, who talks about sharing, feeding the hungry, etc., while the 7 throw out more food than would feed all of the 93! They transfer money abroad and open new and better bank accounts, while the 93 find it more and more difficult to get something to eat. The bottom line must surely be this: If the 7 are so stupid and so blind that they cannot see the frightful contradiction of their situation, then, surely, they cannot expect the 93 to be that stupid, to be that blind!