YEAR C: HOMILY FOR THE 14TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
TOPIC: Call to Mission
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Gospel: Luke 10:1-12, 17-20 (Mission of the Seventy-two)
“The Times of Your Witness”
- Message of Our Blessed Mother
a) There is a need for Christians to give witness to the world: we are called upon to give Jesus to the world through our witnessing. We must make Jesus concretely alive to the people in the world through our life. We should be the living pictures of Jesus in our times.
b) There are four ways of witnessing mentioned by the Blessed Mother: “witness of being consecrated to me” (letter c); “witness of walking with me along the road of faith” (letter d); “witness of walking with me along the road of prayer” (letter e), and; “witness of walking with me along the road of holiness” (letter f).
c) All these ways of witnessing are necessary to keep burning the flame of faith in us and in others. This leads us to the Gospel message.
- The Sunday Readings
a) The first reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah is a loving and tender promise of God to protect and provide for His people. He promised abundance of blessings: “I will spread prosperity over her like a river, and the wealth of nations like an overflowing torrent.” He promised comfort and lasting peace: “As a mother comforts her son, so will I comfort you.”
b) The Responsorial Psalm is the fitting response of the people for such wonderful and loving promises of God: “Let all the earth cry out to God with joy!” For a people so loved and cared for by God, there is no room for fear and sorrow. Joy and thanksgiving should always fill our hearts.
c) The second reading is from St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. He gives praise and glory to the cross of Christ: “May I never boast of anything, but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is the cross of Christ that renewed his life; it also renews the life of the world: “All that matters is that one is created anew.” When people follow the law of the cross, then there is peace in their lives: “Peace and mercy on all who follow this rule of life, and on the Israel of God.”
d) The Gospel account is about the sending of the Seventy-two disciples on mission. Jesus gives them specific practical instructions before they embark on their mission to proclaim the Good News of salvation. These instructions are meant to guide them in this task, and also to remind them that ultimately, it is God’s work and they are just His instruments. So they should always remain humble, docile and totally dependent on God in their missionary activities. It is only St. Luke who mentions another group aside from the Twelve. The Twelve are the special group personally chosen by Jesus – the number is significant since it symbolically represented the twelve tribes of the “new Israel”. But St. Luke mentions a bigger group, the Seventy-two disciples. In the original manuscripts of the Bible, the number seventy and seventy-two are used interchangeably. This number is highly symbolic and significant in Jewish legend and history: Genesis 10 mentions by name 70 descendants of Japheth, Shem and Ham; Moses commissioned 70/72 elders in Numbers 11; there were 70/72 divinely inspired translators of the Old Testament into Greek (Septuagint).
- Points for Reflection
a) “The harvest is rich, but the workers are few.” The owner of the harvest is God. We have to pray that God sends more workers into His harvest. The entire world is God’s field ripe for harvest. People have to be evangelized and taught the ways of the Kingdom. But the workers are few. Praying for vocations is sadly neglected nowadays. But it is a very necessary apostolate. The diminishing number of priests and vocations to the priesthood is quite alarming. Right now, the American Church is preparing for the eventual scenario of priest-less parishes that will be managed and run by lay people; the priests will not anymore be full-time pastors, but will just go to parishes for sacramental celebrations. In the Philippines, there is no such scenario yet, but the number of priests cannot cope with the number of Catholics. Consider this: the Philippines has only around 7,000 priests, while the US has 44,000 priests. Yet the Philippines has more Catholics than the US.
b) “I am sending you as lambs in the midst of wolves.” Jesus is aware of the oppositions against the Gospel. The devil will try to stop the spread of the Gospel. The disciples must not be complacent and naïve, for the world is replete with enemies, temptations and distractions. Jesus himself was led to the cross by his enemies. His disciples should not expect a fate that is less harsh than what their Master has undergone. The warning of Jesus is just being realistic. He wants his followers to be conscious of the enemy, but he assures them of his presence and protection: “I will be with you always until the end of time”; “Not a hair on your head will be harmed.”
c) “Do not carry a walking stick or traveling bag; wear no sandals.” This instruction may sound impractical for modern men. But at the time of Jesus, this was a practical advice: do not carry anything valuable. The disciples have to walk on the road, two by two, (they were “sent in pairs”) so that there is support and protection, and so that any testimony can be verified by two witnesses. They are to watch out for robbers and criminals on the road. Carrying anything valuable – traveling bag, money, and the like – will surely attract such lawless elements. Sandals are necessary for traveling on foot. But it was forbidden, most likely as a sign of extreme asceticism. The disciples must show that they are truly poor. A staff or walking stick is necessary for self-defense (that is why in the Gospel of St. Mark – Mk 6:8 – it is allowed), but Matthew and Luke forbids it, for two reasons: first, the disciples must be a sign of peace to people, and they must show that they have no intention to retaliate; and second, because coat, stick and begging pouch was the uniform of wandering philosophers who accepted a beggar’s reward in return for their wisdom. The disciples do not beg: “The laborer is worth his wage.”
d) “Peace to this house.” The disciples are God’s messengers of peace. In the Biblical language, peace is “shalom.” It is not just the absence of conflict or wars. Rather, it is the presence of harmony and total well being of a person and the entire community. Shalom means everything is totally well because God’s favor rests on each of the person. It is only God that can be the source of this peace. This is what Jesus said: “Peace I leave with you. My peace is my give to you. I do not give it as the world gives peace.” Nowadays, people are searching for peace, but they are unsuccessful, for they are looking for it away from God. True peace will come only when people learn to obey God’s commandments and live according to His will. Jesus sent his disciples as messengers of peace – to help them live according to God’s plan and commands. If they reject the message of the disciples, peace cannot remain with them. This is what happens now in the world. We are in constant turmoil, confusion and troubles because people reject God’s teachings and disobey His commands.
e) “Stay in the one house, eating and drinking what they have, for the laborer is worth his wage. Do not move from house to house.” The disciples do not go around begging for food and support. It is the obligation of the people to support them. At the same time, they cannot be choosy and demanding. They have to be contented with what the people can offer them. Proclaiming the Gospel is not only the obligation of the disciples; the lay people have also their part in this mission by supporting the missionaries.
f) “We shake the dust of this town from our feet as testimony against you.” Rejecting the messengers is tantamount to the rejection of the one who sent them. The disciples must be aware that any form of rejection is not against them personally, but are directed ultimately against Christ. So, they have to “shake the dust from our feet”. This phrase is Jewish in origin. The dust of any country other than the Holy Land is considered unclean. In this passage, it also means that a town or a house that reject the Word is deemed unclean. In that case, they cannot be part of the kingdom of God, and this is demonstrated by “shaking the dust” off the feet of the disciples. When a person or community rejects God’s message, it is God they are rejecting, and so they cannot share in the destiny of His children.
g) “I watched Satan fall from the sky like lightning.” There are two interpretations of these words of Jesus. First, it could mean that he is rejoicing that through the missionary work of the disciples, Satan is defeated resoundingly.
However, the other interpretation is more according to the context of the entire story. The disciples came back from their mission, and they were rejoicing because they have accomplished so much, and they have cast out many demons: “Master, even the demons are subject to us in your name.” Jesus quickly responded: “I watched Satan fall from the sky.” It is a strong warning to his disciples against pride. Satan fell from the sky, that is, he was driven away from heaven because of his pride. The disciples must take care that, in the midst of their missionary successes and accomplishments, they should never forget that it is God who did all these things, and they are just His instruments. That is why, Jesus added: “Do not rejoice so much in the fact that the devils are subject to you as that your names are inscribed in heaven.” The temptation of power is the most insidious of all. Hence, the disciples must not boast about their power over the devils. Instead, they should be glad that, despite their weaknesses and limitations, God used them as His instruments, and therefore, they take part in His plan of salvation for mankind. Then, they are assured that their names are already written in heaven.
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