By Fr. Rich, O.P.
The Gospel today recounts Jesus’ sending forth “72 others,” in pairs, to the towns and villages that he planned to visit. In modern parlance these would be known as an “advance team.” Tasked with procuring venues and lodging and organizing the crowds, they would ensure that the “star” would not have to worry about crowds being available or places to stay and rest and eat. They could concentrate on their message and arrive ready to preach or teach or campaign.
At this point in the Gospel, Jesus is becoming well known. Feeding the multitude, healing the sick, releasing a young man from a possession, and of course, his preaching of the coming of the Kingdom, all of these combine to make Jesus someone who should be listened to.
By virtue of our baptism and confirmation, we have been sent forth as well; each time we are sent forth from the celebration of the Eucharist, we are charged with spreading the Gospel message. Regardless of the state of the human side of the Church, the presence of the Holy Spirit, our participation in the sacraments, and our faithful study of the Scriptures supports us as we live out our call to ministry.
However, there is more to this discipleship call than that. Particularly in today’s driven, overburdened, overwhelmed culture, as followers of Christ we are challenged to disengage from demands that conflict with our mission. It could be how we spend our free time, or how we spend our free income; it could be that we need be more aware of the circles in which we socialize, how we conduct business.
Living out a call to discipleship is not like a coat of many colors that we can divest ourselves of at the end of the day. It should be part of the landscape of our lives, an integral part of how we enter into our ministry. It is certainly not a 9-to-5 job that we can turn on or off at will.
Where the Gospel reads, “Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals…”, it is less about money, sacks, and sandals and more about us disencumbering ourselves from the things that interfere with our relationship with God. Our egos; our own goals that are in conflict with loving God, neighbor, self; the goals of our culture or our world that we put ahead of our calling to mission — these are things that we should travel without.
As we move into ordinary time in the liturgical calendar, we will be spending time walking with Jesus in his ministry, as written of in the Gospel of Luke. We experience his ministry and his relationships with his disciples and followers. We are invited in: to use what we hear as applied to our own lives and ministries, our own studies, and our own relationships.
We stand at the 14th Sunday in Ordinary time, and, though I’ve referred to this time as a time of ordinary holiness, it really is just the Church’s way of counting the Sundays until the next season. But it does call us to enter into our journey for the long haul, to commit to the day-to-day challenges that constitute living out the Gospel in today’s world.
We have been sent out with the “72”; will we return rejoicing in the successes that we’ve experienced?