First Reading: Isaiah 66:10–14; Psalm 66:1–7, 16, 20; Second Reading: Galatians 6:14–18; Gospel: Luke 10:1–12, 17–20
Psalm 66:1–7, 16, 20
Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;
sing the glory of his name;
give to him glorious praise.
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you.
All the earth worships you;
they sing praises to you,
sing praises to your name.”
Come and see what God has done:
he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.
He turned the sea into dry land;
they passed through the river on foot.
There we rejoiced in him,
who rules by his might forever,
whose eyes keep watch on the nations—
let the rebellious not exalt themselves.
Come and hear, all you who fear God,
and I will tell you what he has done for me.
Blessed be God,
because he has not rejected my prayer
or removed his steadfast love from me.
Reading the Word
First Reading: Isaiah 66:10–14
Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her,
all you who love her;
rejoice with her in joy,
all you who mourn over her—
that you may nurse and be satisfied
from her consoling breast;
that you may drink deeply with delight
from her glorious bosom.
For thus says the Lord:
I will extend prosperity to her like a river,
and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing stream;
and you shall nurse and be carried on her arm,
and dandled on her knees.
As a mother comforts her child,
so I will comfort you;
you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.
You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice;
your bodies shall flourish like the grass;
and it shall be known that the hand of the Lord is with his servants,
and his indignation is against his enemies.
May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything, but a new creation is everything! As for those who will follow this rule—peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
From now on, let no one makes trouble for me; for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.
Luke 10:1–12, 17–20
After this, the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.
The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons, submit to us!” He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and overall the power of the enemy and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Hearing the Word
The readings of this Sunday are very clear in placing emphasis on trustful reliance and utter dependence on God, and on Jesus as a foundation for a successful life, and a fruitful ministry.
The reading from the prophet Isaiah is set in the context of the gradual restoration of Jerusalem, after its destruction in 586 B.C. by the Babylonians. Seeing the restoration taking place, Isaiah compares Jerusalem to a nursing mother and the Israelites to her children. He begins with the call to those who just recently mourned over the destroyed city to rejoice. This one-time heap of ashes in now rising like a mother who nurses her children with the milk of her breasts and dandles them on her knees. These metaphors of motherly nourishment and care portray a God who, like a caring mother, brings his children, Israel, out of a state of desolation and anguish to confidence and prosperity.
Isaiah views the change of fortunes of Jerusalem as evidence that God has not abandoned or become indifferent to the fate of his people. Their infidelity led them to destruction. However, like a caring mother, God nurses them back to life. The lesson behind these symbolic images and words is that people need to depend on God for their sustenance, and well being. In the past the Israelites abandoned God, relying on their own resourcefulness, and incompetent leaders, with disastrous consequences. The restoration of Jerusalem taking place before their eyes is a sign and a lesson that only by trustful dependence on, and faithful adherence to, their God, will their lives be restored and secured for the future.
Paul’s words, which come from the concluding part of his letter to the Galatians, reflect well its main argument. Paul forcefully argued that righteousness before God can only come through faith in Jesus Christ. In Paul’s language, faith is not an abstract belief but an existential attitude of trust and dependence on Jesus for life and for salvation.
In Galatians, Paul passionately argued against the views of those who advocated the need for continuing observance of the Jewish law, as the condition for righteousness. Paul once held the same view and conscientiously followed the law, relying on it as his way of life. All that changed dramatically after his encounter with the Risen Lord. From that moment on, the cross of Christ became the focal point of his life. Paul uses the cross as a symbol of Jesus’ self-sacrifice and a manifestation of his love for humanity (cf. Gal 2:20). This discovery of Christ’s love led Paul to abandon all his former securities and privileges in favor of the cross which secures righteousness and salvation for all who rely and depend on Jesus. Thus, the cross became for Paul the central symbol of his faith. He looks at the world and himself through the light of the cross. The former divisive distinctions between the circumcised and the uncircumcised, that is between the Jews and Gentiles, became irrelevant and meaningless, as the cross of Jesus marked the start of the “new creation”. This new creation is the new people of God, “the Israel of God”, founded not on ethnicity or allegiance to the Jewish law, but on the trustful dependence on Jesus Christ and his saving death, which Paul calls faith.
Paul identifies himself with the crucified Jesus to the point of seeing his own apostolic sufferings, which left his body scarred, as the reflection of Jesus’ passion (cf. 2 Cor 11:23-27). He boasts of those scars because they bear testimony to his union with and likeness to Christ himself. With the cross at its center, Paul’s life and ministry rest on the surest foundation, that even violent opposition cannot undermine.
The gospel reading contains Jesus’ comprehensive instructions for his followers and future apostles. Luke uniquely reports these instructions delivered to the seventy-two disciples – a large group symbolizing the future universal mission of the Church to the world.
First, the disciples are sent ahead of Jesus in pairs. This means that they are representing Jesus and preparing a place for him. They are sent into the world where they will encounter opposition and severe adversity, they will be like “lambs among wolves”. This somber warning is not meant to frighten and discourage, but to make them keenly aware that they can succeed and survive this challenging mission only with Jesus’ help. They are not to “take a purse or bag or sandals”, which means that that they must rely on God’s providence, to avoid the danger of being absorbed by the concern for food and clothing. They are commanded “not to greet anyone”, as the prophet Elisha commanded his servant Gehazi (2 Kgs 4:29). This peculiar command means that the disciples’ task is not to make friends for themselves, but to represent Jesus, and carry out his work with a great sense of urgency. They are to bring the gift of peace to the households they enter. Peace is a state of harmony with God which those who accept Jesus in response to their proclamation will experience. The disciples are to remain in the same house, which means they ought not to seek better lodging but be satisfied with what they are offered. Finally, they are to heal the sick and proclaim the message of the kingdom. The rejection or acceptance of their message will determine the eternal fate of those who hear it.
Concluding, Jesus emphasized that the apostolic mission has truly cosmic consequences. Since even the demons, Satan servants, submit themselves to the disciples’ authority received from Jesus, it means that Satan has been defeated – he has “fallen from the sky”. Thus, because the disciples are doing Jesus’ work, they are safe from all permanent harm. Even if they experience dangers and sufferings their names are “written in in heaven” – their salvation and final union with God is assured.
In all those instructions the common underlying factor is that the mission of the disciples is Jesus’ mission and it can only be executed faithfully and fruitfully when they depend on Jesus as their guide, the source of sustenance, and their ultimate hope.
Today’s liturgy unequivocally highlights the central role that dependence on God plays in believers’ lives. Isaiah emphasized that fact by describing the restoration of the nation as God’s own initiative and work. Like a nursing mother bringing her children to maturity, God brings his people out of despair and desolation if they choose to look to Him and depend on his guidance. After his conversion, Paul based his life entirely on the cross of Jesus which became the foundation of his apostleship. He came to depend solely and completely on the crucified Jesus for the strength and motivation for his life and challenging mission. Jesus’ followers received a comprehensive set of diverse instructions for their apostolic mission with a common emphasis on depending utterly on God and Jesus. This awareness that the divine presence and power lie behind everything that believers are, and do brings a sense of joyful relief, well expressed by the Psalmist with the words, “Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for me. “
Listening to the Word of God
This fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time calls our attention to the need for complete dependence on God, which leads to a positive transformation in our lives, and in the lives of the people we encounter. This dependence expresses itself through the attitudes of hope, faith, and loving generosity described in today’s readings.
The first reading speaks about the awesomeness of God and his acts, aimed at the restoration of Israel to its lost glory. There is an African proverb which says that “no matter how bad a child is, the mother will not give it to the lion to eat”. We see the truth of that proverb in God who has not turned his face away from Israel, even if Israel was an unfaithful partner. Learning from this we recognize that God will never turn away from his own. Thus, even if we should fail in our response and love of God, he will always seek to restore us to the dignity of being his children. God renews and re-energizes us for a dignified life every day.
The second reading further reminds us of the salvific power of the cross needed to obtain righteousness through faith in Christ. Faith is not something abstract but an existential attitude of trust and dependence on Jesus Christ who through his death and resurrection has won life for us. To live in faith is to entrust oneself completely to Christ, and rely on him for a happy life. This means that we consciously choose Christian values and ways, rather than try to succeed in life by means and ways that go contrary to the way of life that Jesus taught.
Finally, the Gospel helps us to see the benefits of complete dependence on God. Like the disciples, we are also invited to take part in the universal mission of Christ; to represent Christ in our time and place and make his saving power known and felt. Is it an easy task? Surely NO. As we see in today’s Gospel, Jesus prepares his followers for possible opposition and severe adversity, but he also promises them his help to survive and succeed. Every Christian knows that practicing the faith, especially in anti-Christian environs, is costly, but, with the help of Christ, we are more than conquerors. When we let go of our concern for unnecessary things and unimportant things and hold on to Christ, he will strengthen us beyond all measure. Discipleship is very often all about emptying ourselves and letting Christ fill us.
The Lord invites us today to depend on him. Our dependence on him makes our life’s mission efficient and effective. When we allow the Lord to take charge of our lives he brings us to a point of saying with St Paul, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”; we become another Christ in a world that needs Christ. Let us, therefore, accept this invitation of allowing God to use us for his glory through our complete dependence on him.
“God helps the tailless cow to drive away flies”.
What oppositions do I meet in life as a believer? Do I react to these challenges with fear or with trust in God’s help?
Am I helping others, especially those facing challenges, to trust more in the Lord’s help and providence? How?
Response to God
Whenever I encounter threats and fears I will turn first to the Lord with trustful pleas for help, strength, and guidance.
Response to your World
I will make a list of what the Lord has done for me in these days and will share it with others to encourage them.
As a group we will have an evening of sharing testimonies of the goodness of God, so as to encourage those among us, who might be going through tough times, to trust God in their situation.
Saving God, your mercy and compassion reach to the ends of the earth. You open your door of love, providence and grace to all people. Help us to humble ourselves and allow you to have your way in our lives. Teach us to depend on you at all times, for you are our saving help. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Scripture quotations from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, © 1989, 1993. Used with permission.