Sunday, July 7, 2019
14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Liturgical Color: Green
First reading: Isaiah 66:10–14c
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 66:1–3, 4–5, 6–7, 16, 20
Second reading: Galatians 6:14–18
Gospel: Luke 10:1–12, 17–20
Our First Reading is full of rejoicing. Why? Because the cross of Jesus has brought us redemption. The milk we receive from “Jerusalem our mother” (the Church, the Body of Christ; see Galatians 4:26–27, quoted below) is the grace of salvation.
Jerusalem is a city in Palestine, but it has a universal significance as the “womb of redeemed mankind,” thanks to Jesus Christ, who brought it about.
But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written, “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and shout, you who are not with labor pains; for the desolate has more children than she who has a husband.” – Galatians 4:26–27
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a great voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” And he who sat upon the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” – Revelation 21:1–5
The new Jerusalem, the Bride of Christ and the true Mother of Mankind (see Revelation 12:17), is the Church of the New Testament, which testifies to the new creation, where all things are made new. We, then, “like newborn babes” (see 1 Peter 2:2), are able to “suck fully of the milk of her comfort.”
A mother draws her children near her; we seek our mother, the Church. Whatever is weak and young has an appeal and sweetness and lovableness of its own, just because in its weakness it does stand in need of assistance. But God does not withhold assistance from such an age of life. Just as the male and female parent regard their young tenderly — whether it be horses their colts, or cows their calves, or lions their cubs, or deer their fawn or men and women their children — so, too, does the Father of all draw near to those who seek his aid, giving them a new birth and making them his own adopted children. He recognizes them as his little ones, he loves only them, and he comes to the aid of such as these and defends them. That is why he calls them his children. – Clement of Alexandria, Christ the Educator 1.5.21
The Apostle Paul here preaches “the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Or as he puts it in 1 Corinthians 2:2, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Christ crucified, not Christ victorious and triumphant. The crucified Jesus was mocked and insulted, beaten with scourges and tortured to death; how can Paul say that he boasts in this kind of treatment?
Only by going beyond appearances to recognize the profound meaning of that event [Jesus’ crucifixion] can a person perceive an action of God whose results are positive beyond imagining. Contemplating Jesus’ cross, Paul recognizes a sublime demonstration of love: the Son of God “has loved me and given himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20; see Ephesians 5:2, 25). – Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture
Paul, then, glories in emulating Jesus in his singular act of redemption and forgiveness. Because it is his Lord’s cross, it is glorious. In its ignominy, it marks a radical break with the world, in favor of Christ and those who believe in him. Paul joins his own suffering for the sake of the Gospel to that of Jesus on the cross. In the cross of Christ, he himself is crucified; in that cross, too, the world is crucified. All Christians must join their suffering to that of Christ because, as members of his body, we all suffer with him. In this way, what is said in Romans 6:6, 8 is fulfilled: “We know that our former man was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.… But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.”
In Christ’s crucifixion, then, we have our redemption, because as his Body, we rise with him “on the third day” and ascend into heaven, to be seated at the right hand of the eternal Father (see the Apostles’ Creed). This is our boast; this is our joy. And this is our tie-in with the First Reading, which is all about joy.
But there is more! This short passage is brimming with significance.
6:15. The expression “new creation” is full of theological content. It points to the fact that supernatural grace operates at a much higher level than any mere human action: just as God in creating the world made everything out of nothing, so too grace is granted without there being any previous merits. The phrase also indicates that, in regard to salvation, the only thing which matters as far as God is concerned is grace: just as things exist because they have been created, so man exists on the supernatural plane because he has been “created again.” Finally, “new creation” gives us a glimpse into the mystery of grace: thus, when we were originally created we were given existence, and a nature, and certain faculties: in a similar way, on being created anew we are made to share in God’s nature, we are given a new nature (super-nature) and a whole supernatural biology (the infused virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit). – Navarre Bible Commentary
In the original creation, our nature was damaged by Adam’s sin. But our new life, in the new creation of Christ’s redemption, re-creates us as supernatural — divine — beings (see 2 Peter 1:4), invulnerable to suffering and death, which are the heritage of sin.
For we have been created and made to exist in our nature through Adam, but that creature is already old. Therefore, the Lord in producing us and establishing us in the existence of grace has made a new creature: “That we might be some beginning of his creature” (James 1:18). And it is called “new,” because by it we are reborn into a new life by the Holy Spirit — “Thou shalt send forth thy spirit and they shall be created: and thou shalt renew the face of the earth” (Psalm 103:30) — and by the Cross of Christ: “If then any be in Christ a new creature, the old things are passed away, behold all things are made new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). In this way, then, by a new creature, that is, by the faith of Christ and the charity of God which has been poured out in our hearts, we are made new and are joined to Christ. – St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Galatians 6.4
One more item. Paul also says that he bears on his body “the marks of Jesus.” What is that about?
Property and slaves in the ancient world were branded with a mark of ownership. Paul views himself as a slave of Christ (Romans 1:1) who bears physical scars from the many persecutions that accompanied his apostolic work (Acts 14:19; 16:22; 2 Corinthians 11:23–29). – Ignatius Catholic Study Bible
In this week’s Gospel Reading, Jesus commissions seventy (or seventy-two) disciples to announce to the villages he will be passing through, on his way to Jerusalem, that the Kingdom of God is approaching. He extends to them the power to expel demons and to heal the sick. In ancient times, people connected these two maladies closely, believing that sickness was caused primarily by demonic action. Christians of today recognize that illnesses are often the result of natural causes, such as microbes, but also accept that demons can still bring about physical illness, recognizable when there is no other discoverable cause.
Earlier (Luke, chapter 9), Jesus had sent out his elite corps, the twelve Apostles, to do much the same thing as these seventy. But they were sent primarily to the Jews, whereas the seventy were to speak to the non-Jews and to the Samaritan heretics. This is why Jesus organizes them only when he reaches Samaria.
Now I need to mention some issues. First, there are two textual traditions, one saying that there were seventy disciples in this group, the other that there were seventy-two. Jewish tradition of Jesus’ time followed the first enumeration in setting up the Sanhedrin, the main ruling body in Jerusalem, according to the 70 elders who were appointed as prophets by Moses (Numbers 11:24–25). The Sanhedrin thus had 70 regular members, plus the high priest, who took the role of Moses. If Jesus was training these disciples for special roles in his Church, this mission would be a natural way to begin.
The other enumeration, say some scholars, corresponds to the number of the nations listed in the genealogies of Genesis 10, excluding Israel. This theory assumes that the Genesis passage prefigures the New Testament Church’s mission to the nations (Luke 24:47; compare Exodus 1:5 and Deuteronomy 32:8), as opposed to the 12 Apostles, who were to evangelize the Jews.
This latter is a tempting interpretation, but it does not correspond well with the fact that we know nothing about the original 70 disciples, yet we do know that the Apostle Peter was at the forefront in bringing the first Gentiles into the Church (Acts 8, 10). Meanwhile, Paul, who does not figure among the 70 since he never met Jesus, was sent to evangelize the Gentiles. Scholars instead speculate that Joseph called Barsabbas and Matthias, both mentioned in Acts 1:21–26, may have been part of the group; also, Cleopas and his companion, who appear in Luke 24:13–35.
Furthermore, while the commentaries I have consulted do not mention it, it appears that the Evangelist (Luke) has inserted testimony from a separate source in this chapter. The evidence for this is that only here is Jesus both addressed as “Lord” (a common form of address of one’s superior) and is designated as “Lord” instead of “Jesus” in the narrative. The commentators note this and assume it is an early acknowledgement of Jesus’ divinity, but do not discuss possible textual repercussions. The evident insertion does not impinge on the passage’s inspiration, but it is a curious deviation. On the other hand, Luke is known for his strict fidelity to his sources, so it would not be out of character.
Now let us look at the passage’s spiritual meaning.
The first thing we notice in this passage is that Jesus requires complete detachment and abandonment to divine providence of those he has chosen for the task of announcing the Kingdom. The missionaries are not to take anything at all with them but the clothes on their backs — nothing! They are expected to depend entirely on the hospitality (today, with the differences in culture, we might say “charity”) of the residents of the villages where they are to address the people. Basically, this is a vow of poverty. It may be temporary, as in this case, or permanent, when one dedicates his entire life to the Gospel. Only certain people are called to this kind of life, and only certain people are able to accept it. But some are indeed called, and all members of the Body of Christ, the Church, have some role to assume in helping that Body to fulfill its function in the world. For this reason, it seems apropos to quote here from one of the documents of the Second Vatican Council:
The most holy council, then, earnestly entreats all the laity in the Lord to answer gladly, nobly, and promptly the more urgent invitation of Christ in this hour and the impulse of the Holy Spirit. Younger persons should feel that this call has been directed to them especially and they should respond to it eagerly and generously. Through this holy synod, the Lord renews His invitation to all the laity to come closer to Him every day, recognizing that what is His is also their own (Philippians 2:5), to associate themselves with Him in His saving mission. Once again He sends them into every town and place where He will come (see Luke 10:1) so that they may show that they are co-workers in the various forms and modes of the one apostolate of the Church, which must be constantly adapted to the new needs of our times. Ever productive as they should be in the work of the Lord, they know that their labor in Him is not in vain (see 1 Corinthians 15:58). – Apostolicam Actuositatem (The Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity 33)
Those of us who are not called into the field can fulfill our missionary responsibility by supporting those who carry the word abroad, whether laboring in a far-away land, pastoring our local parish, or working with the poor and disabled in the slums and nursing homes. But Jesus knows that every one of us, even if we are among the poor and disabled, can do something to build up the Kingdom of God, because we can offer our need to others, who can then fulfill their own responsibility by caring for us.
“Behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” Not only are the missionaries to go without provision, but unprotected. For many will reject them and maltreat them as infidels and impostors. Sounds like the conditions Christians often face in our own times, doesn’t it? But there are others in this world who are “sons of peace” (the liturgical version, interpreting the Hebrew idiom, reads “peaceful person”), as Jesus calls those who are disposed to receive the revelation of the Son of God in their hearts.
Finally, when the seventy return from their mission, they tell Jesus with amazement, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” For his part, Jesus acknowledges that Satan has been banished from many people’s lives by the exorcisms performed by this band of workers, because he himself gave them the power to do so. But he also cautions them:
10:20. Our Lord corrects his disciples, making them see that the right reason for rejoicing lies in hope of reaching heaven, not in the power to do miracles which he gave them for their mission. As he said on another occasion, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers’” (Matthew 7:22–23). In other words, in the eyes of God doing his holy will at all times is more important than working miracles. – Navarre Bible Commentary
Yes, we rejoice, just as the prophet Isaiah tells us to do in the First Reading. We are able to rejoice even in the midst of suffering, as the Apostle St. Paul exhorts us to do in union with him in the Second Reading. And finally, we rejoice in our labor for the Kingdom, as Jesus points out to the returning missionaries, because our “names are written in heaven,” in the Book of Eternal Life with God.