Feeling called to follow the Lord with greater zeal this summer? The Gospel this Sunday supports that response. We offer a Franciscan Gospel reflection and questions written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM for your prayer. They are edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. To read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here: Franciscan Gospel Reflection July 7 2019. Excerpts are from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Please include this information when printing. Photo: Capilla de San Francisco de Asis, Mexico
Luke 10:1-12, 17-20
At that time the Lord appointed seventy-two others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no moneybag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way. Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’ If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his payment. Do not move about from one house to another. Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand.’ Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say, ‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you. Yet know this; the kingdom of God is at hand.’ I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town.”
The seventy-two returned rejoicing, and said, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.” Jesus said, “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky. Behold, I have given you the power to ‘tread upon serpents’ and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
The gospel for last week began: “When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him.” (Luke 9:51) That gospel focused on the inhospitable reception Jesus received when he entered a Samaritan village, and the hostile response of James and John. The second part of that text addressed those who would be followers of Jesus who felt they needed to delay becoming followers so that they could “bury the dead.”
This week’s text describes Jesus’ sending out his disciples. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all include an account of Jesus sending out the 12 disciples. Luke is the only gospel to include this additional account of Jesus sending out 72 disciples. Seventy-two was believed to be the number of all the nations. The number implies that the message is to go out to all the nations and not just to those towns that are on Jesus’ route to Jerusalem. This is another hint that the journey that Jesus and his disciples took to Jerusalem should be seen as a spiritual journey as well.
The sense of urgency that was part of last week’s gospel continues this week. Even though Jesus acknowledges they are going out as lambs among wolves, they are to travel very light, without sandals, money, or provisions, and they are not to greet anyone along the way. If they or their message are rejected, they are not to protest or give argument, but simply to move on. Yet, even if they are not welcomed, they are to announce publicly that the Kingdom of God is at hand.
Travel was already dangerous, and not the ordinary experience of people of the day. Also, there were those who would take advantage of travelers. A disciple who traveled without money, staff, or sandals may have had little of value to attract those with evil intentions, but they were also very vulnerable. The virtue of offering hospitality to strangers was extended only to men and foreigners. But there were always strings attached to accepting any favor, including hospitality. Jesus was asking a great deal of the disciples.
While Jesus’ disciples were to be dependent upon the generosity of strangers, they were not powerless. Ancient Mediterranean people believed in a hierarchy of power that extended from God through all of creation, and it included many spirits. It is clear from the description of the rejoicing seventy-two that Jesus had shared with them his power over the spirit world. For a human to have some power over spirits was not totally usual. The problem the leaders of the Jews had with Jesus was not that he cast out spirits, but that they did not know by what power he did such things. Jesus told his followers to rejoice not in this unusual “overturning of the hierarchy of power,” but to rejoice instead that their names were written in heaven.
1. Think of the last time you needed to make an urgent and unexpected trip. What was your preparation like?
2. If you were among the seventy-two receiving Jesus’ instruction of how you were being sent out to the towns and villages, what would be some of the things going through your mind?
3. What would be the most difficult part of being asked to travel as one of seventy-two?
4. What might be the things you discover about yourself and others if you were to travel in the fashion that Jesus was asking of his disciples?
5. When you think of the seventy-two returning rejoicing…
6. What does the fact that Luke has two accounts of Jesus sending out disciples say to you?
7. Can you talk with God now about your experience of God sending you, your hopes, your fears, your hesitation, or your sense of not being ready or even willing?