14th Sunday of Ordinary Time - Your Hearts Will Rejoice

The Gospel for this Sunday strikes me as a description of the spiritual life in miniature. Jesus chooses his disciples, He instructs them and then warns them, the disciples depart, they succeed in the name of Jesus, they return rejoicing and finally Jesus reminds them of even greater joy.  This is really a roadmap of the spiritual journey.

travellightSometimes the journey unfolds in small encounters over the days of our lives. Sometimes it unfolds over a single lifetime in a distinctive, traceable, profound, faith-journey.  Many times these moments happen all at once - the little missions and the grand journey. They are like ripples in a pond overlapping - some bigger, some smaller, all important.

The key is to recognize them.

Jesus chooses.  We are chosen as instruments of God's love. We are chosen in our baptism. We are chosen in our being present in a worshiping community.  If we fail to see ourselves as being individually chosen we will never have the confidence to begin to begin the journey.

Jesus sends.  We are sent by rising to the challenges of the Gospel. We are sent at our confirmation. We are sent by our God-given vocations. We are sent at the end of each Eucharist when we are asked to go in peace to love and serve the Lord and one another. If we fail to see these sending moments in our lives we will lack direction and purpose.

Jesus instructs.  We are instructed by the Word of God through Sacred Scripture and we should always strive to take the Word of God personally. It needs to constantly challenge and speak to us. It gives each one of us a blueprint of how we are to personally contribute to the building of the Kingdom; for the kingdom of God is at hand here and now for us as it was for the seventy-two disciples.  We, like them, are chosen as builders of the same kingdom in our own lifetimes.

Jesus warns.  We too face our own wolves in our own lives. Although these wolves vary in size and number it seems that they are present in all of our lives. Not only do the disciples travel without a money bag, sack or sandals; but they travel without weapons of defense. Even the shepherds were able to wield a rod and staff in defense of their sheep. However, the disciples are only armed with their faith and the name of Jesus. They need nothing more. Neither do we.  We labor as the disciples did.

As he looks over the abundant harvest, instead of immediately sending the disciples out, Jesus directs them to pray to "the Master of the harvest to send out laborers."  Big moments in Luke's gospel are placed in prayerful contexts.  Those who come to serve will be the fruit of our prayer and discernment.  A visit to any parish reveals that those who proclaim the gospel today do it in so many diverse ways: serving at the altar in various ministerial roles; visiting the sick and imprisoned; planning liturgical celebrations; working on the budget committee; welcoming people at the church doors; answering phones in the parish office, etc. 

But the mission belongs to all.  The call is given to all - not just those involved in "formal" or sacramental ministry. The harvest is ready right now. Jesus instructs all of us to go quickly and travel light. We are to spread his peace, cure the sick, shelter the homeless, comfort those in need and proclaim the reign of God.

God is in charge of the harvest and God sees to the supply of laborers. Those of us who are the "laborers" need to remember that ultimately we are not in charge, no matter how highly ranked or exalted we are in the community.  And, to lift our spirits even higher we are reminded by Jesus of the even greater of joy of having our names written in heaven. 

Jesus is the New Jerusalem who comforts and nurtures those in exile, who gathers the scattered, in whom, as Isaiah says: we "shall find our comfort."  How does he gather, restore and nuture so many and fulfill Isaiah's prophecy, "The Lord's power shall be known to God's Servants?"  He does it through his disciples.  Luke tells us Jesus sends out seventy two - and, as we also know, today he sends us out to follow those who were originally sent. 

We must always recognize our mission and our journey. We must see ourselves as chosen, sent, instructed, and warned. Let us see our work as important. Let us face all opposition with our faith and the power of the name of Jesus. And let us return rejoicing and be told of even greater joy.