To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 66:10-14c; Gal 6:14-18; Lk 10:1-12,17-20
The Mission instructions to the seventy (seventy-two) and their return from Mission, which is the Gospel text for today, are texts that are exclusive to Luke. Matthew and Mark have Mission instructions only to the twelve. Luke has this but also has the Mission Discourse to the seventy (seventy-two).
While some manuscripts have the number seventy, others have the number seventy-two. The most likely interpretation is that this number is related to the biblical number of the nations mentioned in Genesis, Chapter 10, wherein the Hebrew text lists seventy nations and the Septuagint lists seventy-two. This is an indication that the commissioning of the seventy (seventy-two) foreshadows the mission of the church to all nations. It is also an indication of the fact that Mission is not restricted to the select few disciples nor is it to be directed to a select few. Mission is the task and privilege of all who profess to be disciples of Jesus and includes every person. Everyone is sent on Mission. The Mission belongs to all.
In the first verse, Jesus affirms that the world needs the Church’s Mission through the words, “the harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few”. He goes on to stress the need for prayer to the One who can send labourers into the harvest field, which is the whole world.
The disciples are then sent out with detailed instructions for Mission. These include how they are to conduct themselves, what they are to carry for the journey, and how they are to respond in the face of acceptance or rejection.
At the very outset, they are warned of the dangers that will be part of their lot simply because they engage in Mission. However, they are to respond, not with retaliation or violence but, with innocence, non-resistance, and sincerity. Since Mission is urgent and critical, they are to go out with as little as possible. They must not be held up by possessions or things; they must be free to move on. They must greet no one on the road, not because they are discourteous or insolent, but to indicate singularity of purpose and urgency. Mission is not tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, but now. Before receiving hospitality, they will give the gift of peace to those whose houses they enter. Since detachment is a key quality that the missioners must possess, they are not to demand a certain type of food but rather, must eat what is provided. This also means that they must not impose their culture on another but rather, possess the openness to assimilate the culture of others.
They are not only to say, but they are also to do, since Mission is spiritual and practical. It is inclusive and involves every aspect of human life. Thus, even as they heal the sick, they will announce the arrival of the kingdom. This means that they announce the absolute, unrestricted, and unreserved love of God. This love is a practical love and is shown in deeds, not merely in words. It is a love given, not because of any merit on the part of the recipients, but freely and without restraint. It is given simply because God loves first.
The detachment that the disciples are called to possess is also detachment from the outcome of Mission. They will be able to possess such detachment when they realise that the Mission is not theirs, but God’s. Thus, they will not be deterred or discouraged by rejection or by a negative response. They will keep on keeping on. They will do what they are meant to do and leave the rest in God’s hands. God will complete what remains undone by them.
Today, more than two thousand years after these instructions were given by Jesus, the task remains. Mission still has to be done. The scope of Mission today has become even wider to include ecology, the environment, consumerism, and globalization. It is in the context of a globalized world, a world which is being systematically destroyed because of the greed of a few, and a world that is very much in need of healing, that Mission has to be accomplished. The world needs to be made constantly aware of God’s unconditional love. It is in this context that the words of God in the first reading, from Isaiah, take on new meaning. The Lord wants to extend prosperity to all nations. God wants to reclaim the world and bring it to its original glory. God has given us a glimpse of this glory by sending Jesus into the world. This glimpse of Jesus and what he accomplished in his short span of life inspires us to hope and to look beyond our present and broken world. It inspires us to look into that new heaven and that new earth in which all will be comforted and all hearts will rejoice.
This is the new creation that Paul speaks of in the second reading of today. It is a victory that has already been achieved by the cross of Jesus Christ. In this event, God, who created the world, reclaimed it already. The new creation is not, however, merely a dream or a vision; it is not something that will be established only in the future. It takes on concrete reality in the community of God’s people whose lives together already testify to the reconciling power of the gospel. It is a new creation that is made visible by both the proclamation and the living out of the unconditional love of God made visible in Jesus.