Thursday of week 26 of Ordinary Time – Gospel


Commentary on Luke 10:1-12

Two days ago we saw Jesus firmly setting out for Jerusalem and the accomplishment of his mission. Yesterday we saw how he responded to people who wanted to or were being invited to join his mission. During the coming days we will see Jesus preparing his actual disciples for their work.

In addition to the inner circle of the Twelve, we are told today that he appointed another 72 (12×6) and sent them two by two to the places he himself would be visiting. (Only Luke mentions this group.) That is a good description of our Christian role. We are supposed to go first to prepare the ground but then it is Jesus himself who comes to plant the seed of faith.

Jesus then goes on to give an instruction to his disciples. We, too, should be listening to his words:

a, He first points out that the harvest is great and there are very few labourers, few who are willing to do the harvesting work with Jesus.

This is a text which is often thrown at us during “vocation” campaigns. We tend to hear it as a call for more priests, brothers and nuns. It is that, of course, but when Jesus spoke there were no priests, brothers or nuns. The challenge was being thrown out to all his followers to find more people to join in the harvesting work.

We have to be careful as we listen to these words not to exclude ourselves because we are middle-aged, or married, or already have a career. The words are addressed to all of us and call for some kind of response from every one of us. It is never too late to respond to the call.

b, Second, Jesus warns his followers that it may not be easy. “I am sending you out as lambs among wolves.” In spite of the message of truth, love, compassion and justice that we bring, it does not mean that we will be received with open arms. On the contrary, we may meet with strong opposition and even persecution. Our message will be seen as threatening. It will be distorted and misunderstood.

c. The disciple is called on to travel light. Jesus himself “had nowhere to lay his head” and he only had the clothes he wore. So many of us are weighed down by the things we own. Some of us have to protect our property with the latest in security devices. In our search for prosperity and material security we have lost the more precious gift of freedom. They are not to stop to greet people in the sense of carrying on lengthy conversations. Their mission was urgent – there are few labourers for a potentially huge harvest.

d, They are to be bearers of peace. Peace, shalom, is much more than an absence of violence. It is a deep inner harmony with oneself, with others, with one’s environment, with God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” We could hardly bring a more precious gift to others than this inner peace. It is, in fact, the heart of our Christian message. Faith, hope and love are the keys to peace.

e, The evangeliser is, first, to stay in the first house that accepts him. He should not be going around looking for better accommodation. At the same time, he is to be provided with shelter and hospitality for “the labourer is worthy of his hire”. This, it seems, was the way Jesus himself lived. And this was the overall ideal of the Christian community: a network of mutually supporting people sharing their resources with each other and with those in greater need than themselves.

f, Their work is primarily to heal the sick in the places they go to. ‘Healing’ should be taken in a wider sense of including body, feelings, mind and spirit. And ‘healing’ should also be seen not just as getting rid of a sickness but of making a person whole again. Bringing healing and wholeness into the lives of individuals and communities is of the essence of the Kingdom and at the heart of Jesus’ work and that of his followers. The sign of that wholeness is inner peace. Today it is no different.

And they are to say, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” This is not just a statement they are to throw out. It is the core of Jesus’ message and an explanation of why people are experiencing healing and wholeness coming into their lives. This is the effect of the coming of the kingdom; this is what the coming of the kingdom means. God’s power is penetrating their lives, transforming them and making them whole again.

Luke mentions the kingdom of God more than 30 times; Matthew more than 50 times. Matthew’s is truly a Gospel of the Kingdom.

The term can have a number of meanings:

  • the eternal kingship (basileia) of God
  • the presence of the kingdom in the person of Jesus; he is the embodiment, the incarnation of the rule of God in himself, an incarnation he wishes to be found in his disciples and the communities they establish
  • the future kingdom in the life that is to come.

In short, the kingdom, the rule of God is intended to be both a present reality as well as a future hope.

g, Finally, if there is any place where they are not received, they are to leave it to its own fate. Even then those people are to know that the kingdom of God is near to them also. There is always the hope that the results of their very rejection of the kingdom will lead to a deeper awareness later on. But by rejecting the messengers of God they have opened themselves to a fate worse than that of Sodom, a city utterly destroyed because of its shameful lack of hospitality to divine visitors. But those hearing the message of Jesus are even more accountable for hearing the message of the Kingdom proclaimed to them and turning their back on it.

Clearly, we cannot literally apply all of these points to our own work on behalf of the Gospel but we need to make the underlying principles and values ours too. It will require some reflection on our part both as individuals and as communities on how we should effectively share the Gospel with those around us and be the harvesters that are so badly needed.

Indeed, let us pray for vocations but let us remember that every single one of us is being called to work in the harvest field and not just some chosen souls who are totally unknown to us.

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