Luke 10:1-12, 17-20
After this 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 labourers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out labourers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, 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 labourer 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 for you.’ 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.”
This passage from Luke’s Gospel, reminds us of the rich rewards that faithful Discipleship can bring. It is important to note that Jesus “appointed seventy-two” and “sent (them) ahead of him in pairs.” Often this is referred to as the commissioning of the seventy-two Disciples. Perhaps the word co-mission is better thought of here. The Disciples are not about their own personal mission, nor are they about the pursuit of a personal agenda. The Disciples are appointed by Jesus to share in and contribute to his mission, the building of the kingdom of God.
The working of miracles by the seventy-two Disciples occurs after they have accepted the co-mission of Jesus Christ. The working together in fellowship with the other Disciples, sharing in the mission of Jesus Christ, is the source of great strength and empowerment. Discipleship is not about power but rather empowerment, the difference is subtle, yet stark. Just as stark are the criteria that Jesus gives them for Discipleship. In going into nearby towns and villages, they are looking for a peaceful person, a person of goodwill.
“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.”
Discipleship deepens this sense of peace and enriches a person’s goodwill. Nonetheless, it is easy for a Disciple to be taken by the external signs and the glory and adulation they might bring to a person. If it is because of God, that the Disciple is able to perform marvellous works and deeds, then the glory and adulation belong to God, not the individual. In our modern world that message has much relevance.
All too often, well intentioned people focus on the external things, actively seeking the adulation that it brings. All too often, in Government, Business and indeed in daily life, things often occur because of the appearance that they can give and the adulation and acclaim that they bring. Too often this is at the expense of more substantial work. The danger is that we seek the praises of God rather than seeking to praise God. We seek the consolations of God, rather than the God of consolation.
As Saint John Baptist De La Salle (Principal Patron Saint of Teachers) wrote in his meditation for Easter Sunday in 1731:
“To enter into these practices (sic) and to show, according to Saint Paul, that you are risen with Christ, seek the things that are above; love the things of heaven, not those that are on earth” (Col 3: 1-2).
This is at the heart of Discipleship and the message of this Gospel passage.