“You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice; your bones shall flourish like the grass; and it shall be known that the hand of the Lord is with his servants.” (Isaiah 66:14)
Last Sunday, we reflected on the call to ministry and the battle of the flesh. We read of the miraculous call of Elisha, the attempt by some to give excuses, and the expectations of God from those who are called. In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus extends the invitation to seventy others who He sent out to proclaim the Good News. These seventy were to follow certain strict conditions such as; the renunciation of material riches, collaboration, the non-forced proclamation of the Gospel, etc.
By asking them to carry no purse, no bag, and no sandals, Jesus virtually condemned them to poverty. As Paul writes, for these seventy, the world would be crucified to them. Surprisingly, the seventy came back full of smiles, full of joy, and happy that even the demons were subject to their authority. The joy of the seventy echoes the joy which the Prophet Isaiah speaks about in today’s first reading. It is a joy we all crave in our world today. As our opening prayer puts it, this is the joy of freedom from the slavery of sin. Let us now examine some lessons contained in today’s readings.
1. God Needs You.
There are some points to note from the number seventy in today’s Gospel passage: One, this group of seventy is clearly different from the twelve disciples (They were neither ordained nor did they receive any special training). Two, their names and ages are not mentioned, meaning they were anonymously chosen from among the crowd. Three, we are not told whether they were all men or all women meaning they must have been mixed. Four, the number seventy is symbolic and it indicates totality. For instance, Jesus asked us to forgive seventy times seven.
God needs you on this mission. Yes, God needs every one of us whether ordained or not ordained, professed or not professed, be you male or female, whether young or old, whether trained or not trained, we all have a universal mandate to go out there and evangelize the whole world. Among the seventy were tax collectors, engineers, lawyers, politicians, teachers, contractors, doctors, just name it. God needs you. He needs you right where you are, you too are called to proclaim the Gospel by your very life. Jesus couldn’t do it all by himself then, how much more now?
2. Success is Collaboration
Reading our Gospel passage again, we hear: “The Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to come.” Dear friends, success in the mission depends heavily upon collaboration and this collaboration is on two levels: First, the Human level (they were sent out two by two) and secondly, the Spiritual Level (they went to every town where Jesus himself was about to come). They went in the company of one another and Jesus himself went with them to bless the work they did.
You cannot do it all by yourself, we are not called to compete but to cooperate. If there is no love among us, how can we preach to the world about love? If two Christians cannot see eye to eye or forgive, how can we tell the world about Christ’s forgiveness? On the other hand, as Paul would say: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:6). If we do not collaborate with God (without an active prayer life), our efforts would be futile.
3. Our Lifestyle Matters.
Jesus said: “Behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves (therefore,) carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; salute no one on the road…do not go from house to house, eat and drink what is set before you… heal the sick and say the kingdom of God is near you…” Dear friends, be it known to you today that the most difficult task you would ever attempt to do is to preach about God to your colleagues at work, in the market, in the streets, in your school, or even on social media.
Why is it so difficult today for Christians to talk about God? Simple: no one wants to hear about God, and no one wants to hear preaching. We live in a world that worships money as such, we who want to preach God must be different, we must be detached from these idols, and we must place God above material possessions. This is the meaning of “carry no purse, no bag, no sandals…”
With the advent of the Gospel of prosperity, materialism has eaten deep into the heart of Christianity today, our messages are now reduced to mere motivational (feel good) speech, as such, immorality has become the order of the day even in our churches. St. Paul says in our second reading today: “Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…” Today, we glory in our latest cars, our private jets, business empires, and so on. Dear friends, let us ask ourselves: “Is my love for riches acting as an obstacle to the proclamation of the Gospel?”
4. The Secret of Everlasting Happiness.
Once upon a time, a young man came to Jesus seeking the key to eternal life (true happiness). Jesus told him: “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me…” Mark tells us that “at that saying, his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful.” (Mark 10:21-22). Unlike this man who went home sorrowful, the seventy who had gone out to evangelize carrying no purse, no bag, no sandal came back bursting with joy and excitement.
When they were going out, it was like an adventure to them, they must have asked themselves, “How am I going to survive? No purse, no bag, no sandals, no nothing! They must have concluded that Jesus was sending them out to commit suicide. But they obeyed. They followed the warnings. And they came back shocked that even the demons obeyed them. Their great power was in their ability to detach themselves.
When we are focused on storing up treasures for ourselves in heaven rather than here on earth, we open ourselves to true and unlimited happiness. Jesus told the seventy not to rejoice in their ability to cast out demons but in the fact that their names are in heaven. Our greatest joy should be to see that eventually, we make it to heaven.
Let us pray: O God, who in the abasement of your Son have raised up a fallen world, fill your faithful with holy joy, for on those you have rescued from slavery to sin you bestow eternal gladness. Amen.
(Bible Study: Isaiah 66:10-14, Ps. 66:1-7,16,20, Galatians 6:14-1, Luke 10:1-12,17-20)
© Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu