We all know that Jesus is God. He can do all things. While he was in our midst, he healed the sick, fed the hungry, brought the dead back to life and even overcame the power of the devil as he rose from the dead. So, why did he need the help of the seventy-two we hear him send out two by two in today’s Gospel? Actually, he didn’t need their help. Jesus saves the world all by himself. However, God, in his divine providence calls on us to assist him in building the kingdom and bringing salvation to all humankind. We hear our risen Lord give that very clear instruction before he returns to the Father: “Go out and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” And, even during his public ministry, Jesus sent out the 12 – as we hear in chapter 9 of Luke’s Gospel – and then the 72 – as we hear today. And, just as the number 12 is important, since it recalls the 12 tribes of Israel, 72 is significant because it represents all the nations of the then-known world. As Jesus begins his journey to Jerusalem, he is setting in motion the building up of the Church that will take up the reins of leadership after he has ascended into heaven, led by both the descendants of the 12 to the tribes of Israel and the 72 to all the nations.
Jesus sends his followers out to heal the sick, forgive sins, cast out demons and announce the kingdom of God. The harvest is plenty, the laborers are few. As Jesus prepares to save us by his death and Resurrection on Calvary, he knows his days here an earth are numbered, but the whole world must be touched by his message and continue his mission of building the kingdom of God here on earth.
The chosen ones are told to travel lightly. All they are to carry with them besides the clothing on their back is total trust in the providence of God to meet their needs. And, they are warned that not everyone would welcome their message. Where God’s word was welcomed, people would also welcome those who preached it. Likewise, where the Gospel was rejected, these disciples would shake the dust from their feet and move on to other towns. History shows acceptance and rejection from individuals and communities down through the ages; it’s still the case today, isn’t it? But, as we hear from Jesus as he prepares to ascend, we – his followers down through the ages – are called to proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth.
Th underlying truth of these instructions, it seems, is this: whether people want to listen or not, regardless of whether they come to believe it or not, the Kingdom of God is, in fact, at hand. Jesus came to establish it in our midst and it will remain until the end of time. And this fact requires something of everyone who believes – repentance and a missionary zeal. Jesus has given his faithful followers power over all evil. “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky,” we hear Jesus exclaim in today’s Gospel. We have nothing to fear if we trust in the Lord.
Remember what Jesus said as he sent out the 72: “the harvest is abundant but the laborers are few.” You and I are the Lord’s laborers today. They are not some “other people” – it’s us. So, we are called to shed the excess baggage of doubt and distraction, and depend on God to complete the great work he has begun in us. This message is at the heart of the new evangelization that the past several popes have called us all to embrace and the call for all of us to become missionary disciples
As we hear in today’s first reading, Isaiah proclaims, “The Lord’s power shall be known to his servants.” This is the encouragement we need. Just as Jesus stayed close to his disciples empowering them to go out and proclaim his message of salvation, so he remains with us, especially through this sacred sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, where we hear God’s word and receive our Lord’s own life-giving Body and Blood, and through his Holy Spirit that he sent us at Pentecost. With this divine power, we can make his Good News of salvation known to everyone whose heart is open to hear it. And, as Jesus was patient with his first disciples, he is patient with us, always cajoling us to continue the work he has called us to do. From Jerusalem to Wayne to the ends of the earth, all will experience the comfort and love of a merciful God. How privileged we are to be called to proclaim this message of salvation to a world that so desperately needs to hear it.