Are we willing and ready to take up the mission?

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 66:10-14C

Thus says the LORD: Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her, all you who love her; exult, exult with her, all you who were mourning over her! Oh, that you may suck fully of the milk of her comfort, that you may nurse with delight at her abundant breasts! For thus says the LORD: Lo, I will spread prosperity over Jerusalem like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing torrent. As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms, and fondled in her lap; as a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort. When you see this, your heart shall rejoice and your bodies flourish like the grass; the LORD's power shall be known to his servants.

Galatians 6:14-18

Brothers and sisters: May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither does circumcision mean anything, nor does uncircumcision, but only a new creation. Peace and mercy be to all who follow this rule and to the Israel of God. From now on, let no one make troubles for me; for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.

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 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 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 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."

The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith, a document by the Synod of Bishops in Oct 2012 (which paved the way for Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium in Nov 2013), echoed Jesus’ blueprint of evangelization as in today’s gospel reading. I would like to highlight it in three areas.

Duty of evangelization

Jesus’ framework of evangelism starts with the commissioning of the seventy. Broadening the task beyond the twelve apostles signaled that this task belongs to all of His disciples. Like Jesus who is Himself the evangelizer, each member of the Church has the duty and responsibility to proclaim and share the Good News. “Evangelization is the everyday work of the Church” (preface) and “every one of the Church’s actions has an essential evangelizing character and must never be separated from the duty to help others encounter Christ in faith, the primary goal of evangelization” (par 34).

Task of evangelization

Jesus laid down the conditions for His disciples before sending them out. They were to pray, for it was only God who could give success to their work. They were to bring the gift of peace to those they visited and to heal the sick. Jesus’ way of evangelizing was accompanied by healing and forgiveness. The document called for a rediscovery of the heart of evangelization, “with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, ordinary evangelizing activity can be endowed with renewed vigor” (preface). “In the new evangelization, the love shown to those in spiritual and material need, which is expressed in works of fellowship, solidarity and assistance, speaks louder than words” (par 124).

Attitude of evangelization

Jesus taught His disciples the proper attitude when proclaiming the Good News. They were to move quickly for the proclamation was urgent. They were to trust in God’s providence and not to be overjoyed in the defeat of evils but rather rejoiced at being chosen. The Synod agreed that “renewed missionary activity is now more urgent than ever, given the large number of people who do not know Jesus Christ, in not only far-off countries but also those already evangelized” (preface). The document saw a need to regenerate the joy of believing but the Church’s enthusiasm must be accompanied by “an ongoing internal renewal, a continuous passing from being evangelized to evangelizing” (par 13).

In summary, Jesus’ disciples were to go out and preach the Good News and to be joyful witnesses of the mission. The document concluded with these words: “may the world of our time……… enabled to receive the Good News not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervor, who have first received the joy of Christ, and who are willing to risk their lives so that the kingdom may be proclaimed.” The mission of the Church has not changed. It was the same message that Jesus and His disciples spoke——the message of the Kingdom of God. The key is: are we willing and ready to take up the mission?

Posted: July 3, 2016

May Tam

May Tam, Bachelor of Social Science (University of Hong Kong), Master of Theological Studies (University of Toronto)

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