A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke.
Jesus appointed seventy-two other disciples
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.’
Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you,
go out into the streets and say,
‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet,
even that we shake off against you.’
Yet know this: the Kingdom of God is at hand.
I tell you,
it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town.”
Good News Reflection:
Jesus wants us all to be workers in the Lord’s harvest. In today’s Gospel reading, he’s commissioning 72 disciples and sending them forth on evangelization missions. Notice that he’s not limiting this important work to just the Top Twelve Disciples. He sent forth a large contingent of followers, and then he went on to say that there weren’t enough of them.
Today he’s still doing this at the end of every Mass. When the priest gives us the final blessing to send us forth, it’s not really him doing it — it’s Jesus himself!
Is he still saying that there aren’t enough of us working this harvest?
Saint Francis of Assisi is famous for teaching that all Christians should preach the Gospel at all times, “and sometimes use words.” Our lives — how we respond to crises, how we treat others, how we rely on faith when there are reasons to doubt, how we deal with suffering, how much we care about the future of our planet and protecting God’s creations, and what we do about injustices within and outside our churches — are the harvesting tools that evangelize.
We are all commissioned for this mission by virtue of our baptisms. Our everyday lives either witness or fail to witness about God’s true nature.
Furthermore, Jesus emphasized that we should evangelize as lambs among wolves. What is a lamb? Remember that in Christian symbolism, Jesus is the Lamb that was slain for our sins, and yes, sometimes we too have to make difficult sacrifices in order to convey God’s love. But not all of the time! Jesus was the Lamb of God before he went to the cross. He was the Lamb throughout his ministry, and he is still the Lamb.
Being a lamb means being like Jesus in every moment of every day in ordinary ways. The opposite is to be a wolf, one who devours the weak. We become wolves if we attack others for their weak or non-existent faith. We are wolves disguised as lambs if we try to guilt people into going to Mass or force them to obey Church laws or beat the love of God into them by nagging and harping on what is wrong about them.
Wolves tear others down. Lambs inspire faith, and faith inspires a personal relationship with Jesus, and this relationship inspires a desire to spread God’s love, and this desire inspires the straying sheep to return to Mass and become active in the faith community.
Jesus also explained that when we reach out to others, we should evangelize them without carrying our personal baggage into the encounter. The baggage that we might be tempted to bring into a conversation about faith includes feelings of inferiority (“God cannot use me, I can’t make a difference”) and feelings of superiority (“They’re bigger sinners than I am”).
Before going out into the world, we need to ask: “What do I tend to bring to others that is not Christ-like?” Ask Jesus to help you unload this baggage at the door.
Lord Jesus: You fill me with Your love and send me to share it. Preserve me from every temptation and distraction so that I do not lose this goal. May those who know me learn to believe in You through me. Amen.
© 2017 by Terry A. Modica