THEME: The harvest is abundant

BY: Fr. Jude Chijioke



Readings: Isaiah 66: 10-14; Galatians 6: 14-18; Luke 10: 1-12.17-20

“At that time the Lord appointed seventy-two others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. He said to them, “The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few; so, ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way. Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘peace to this household.’ If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his payment. Do not move about from one house to another. Whatever town you enter, and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’” (Lk 10).
Jesus recently started that “long march” towards Jerusalem which constitutes the heart of Luke’s Gospel (chapters 9-19). And here in this movement he involves his disciples in what is defined as the first mission which constitutes the theme of today’s Gospel reading. Our attention is drawn to two elements, a numerical sign, and an unfolding of Jesus’ words.
“The Lord appointed seventy-two others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs…” with that number, the distinction between the twelve is already evident. The number 72 is more than a purely quantitative notation. The ancient Jewish tradition believed that the nations of the earth were just 72 in number. In the tenth chapter of the book of Genesis, the number 72 is the list of peoples contained in the great table of all the nations of the world. Hence, under this veil of figures, Luke passes a message very dear to him and that is:
Jesus chose a disciple for each nation; therefore, every people of the earth will listen to the message of the Kingdom of God. Here begins that great movement which will have as its goal the dawn of Pentecost when all the nations under heaven “will hear the great works of God” (Acts 2). The Church is now ideally gathered around Jesus: every disciple embodies the voice, language, and culture of a people, revealing – as Paul would have it that – “there is no longer Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised slave or free, but Christ will be all in all” (Col 3). Therefore, the richness of different spiritualities, a sign of the beauty of the Body of Christ unfolds before us. Luke invites us to share this universal breath especially in this era in which, while, paradoxically, the state borders fall but the barriers of particularism, narrow-mindedness, self-sufficiency arise.
Another numerical element to underline: “he sent them two by two”. There is a long tradition in the Bible that emphasizes a numerical pair. Luke himself, when describing the sending of the Baptist’s disciples to Jesus, notes: “John called two of them and sent them to the Lord” (7:18). When he is near Jerusalem, Jesus “will send two disciples” to prepare for his triumphal entry into the holy city (19:29), just as in chapter 24, 4; there will be two “men in dazzling robes” who announce the resurrection to the women (other evangelists speak of a single angel). The meaning is clear: in the witness of two persons there is a guarantee of truth, as the biblical law admonished (Dt 17, 6). Christianity then is not just “how I feel,” it is not strictly a personal experience, there is always a community dimension to it; it is the well-founded testimony of an event, which has certain guarantee.

Let us move to the second element we want to highlight in this gospel of the mission of the disciples. Jesus tells them to ‘go where he was sending them’. A “lesson to a Christian missionary” takes place on this hinge, a pilgrim who walks under the scorching sun without a bag or sack and sandals and who knocks asking for hospitality. A worker who works so hard all day and, in the evening, awaits the right reward.

Obedience, generosity, poverty, detachment, charity are themes that flow before our eyes, outlining the true face of a missionary. But there is an annotation that in particular seems to seal the role of the Christian mission: “Cure the sick and say: the kingdom of God is at hand to you!”. The two fundamental dimensions of Christian commitment appear here, the “horizontal” one of fraternal charity (cure the sick) and the “vertical” one of the announcement of the Kingdom of God.

In this gospel passage Luke, the Evangelist opens before our eyes a portrait of the Church as Jesus intended it. In this mission of the 72 disciples, the Church must rediscover her very roots and, in her continuous conversion, her identity.

Fr. Jude Chijioke

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