In the Gospel today, Jesus gives a number of practical principles for those who would proclaim the Kingdom. Lets look at them each in turn.
I. Serious - The text says, 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.
The Lord describes here a very serious situation. There is an abundant harvest, but there are so few willing to work at it. Consider first the harvest in our own day. Look at the whole human race and how many don’t yet know the Lord. There are over 6 billion people on the planet. 1.1 billion Catholics (many of them lukewarm) about 750 Million other Christians. This means that more than 2/3rds of people on this planet don’t know and worship the Lord Jesus. Here in our own country 75% of Catholics don’t go to Mass.
There are many today who shrug and presume all of this is no big deal and that probably everyone will be saved. Never mind that Jesus says explicitly the opposite, namely that many if not most are heading down the road of loss and damnation (e.g. Matt 7:13; Luke 13:24, etc). Our myopic presumption and false optimism is unBiblical and frankly, slothful.
The Second Vatican Council has this to say,
Those can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel. She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life. But very often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasoning and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, “Preach the Gospel to every creature”, the Church fosters the missions with care and attention. (Lumen Gentium 16)
Note that the council Fathers say that “very often” people are deceived by the Evil One. Do you see that? VERY OFTEN. In other words the notion that the great mass of “ignorant” humanity is not walking into heaven. Rather they are deceived and have let themselves be deceived.
Jesus himself said, This is the judgement: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. (John 3:19)
Yes, the need is urgent. We need to be serious about this. There are many today from our own families and among our friends who have left the practice of the faith and exist on a continuum from indifference to the faith to outright hostility and ridicule of the Holy Faith. We must work to restore them to the Church and the Lord. Otherwise they may likely be lost.
Scripture also speaks of many who walk, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. (Eph 4:17-19)
There is work to do! And we must be serious. Sadly too many have not. The decline of the West has happened on our watch. Too many have thought that evangelization for somebody else. Welcome to what the silence of the saints has produced.
Note too that while this translation says, “ask the Lord of the Harvest” the Greek is more emphatic and personal. The Greek word is δεήθητε (deethete, from deomai) which means to beg as if binding oneself. In other words we are so urgent in this request that we are willing to involve our very self in the solution. This is not a problem merely for the Lord or for others. It is so serious that I am willing to go myself! Do you feel this way about evangelization.
Time to get serious! Many are being lost.
II. Sobriety – The text says, Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.
We must be sober that we are being sent into a word that is inimical, hostile, to the faith. Of this hostility we ought be neither despairing, nor dismissive of it, but sober, clear about it.
Yes, there is an enemy, he is organized, influential and powerful. Nevertheless we are not counseled to fear, but to sobriety, which means means to be aware but unafraid. Scripture says,
- And this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. (1 John 4:3 -4)
- Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. (Ps 23:4-5)
- But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be a time for you to bear testimony. Settle it therefore in your minds, not to meditate beforehand how to answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. (Luke 21:12-15)
- For the accuser (Satan) of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night (Rev 12:10)
Therefore we must be sober but fear not and be not discouraged. There is an enemy and the conflict is real, but the victory is already ours.
And old song says,
Harder yet may be the fight,
Right may often yield to might,
Wickedness awhile may reign,
Satan’s cause may seem to gain;
There is a God that rules above,
With hand of power and heart of love,
If I am right He’ll fight my battle,
I shall have peace some day.
III. Serenity - The Text says, 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. …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.“
Note well then how the Lord counsels us to shake off the dust in the face of rejection. We ought not take it personally. We ought to remember that it is Jesus they are rejecting, not us. Further we ought to be serene in the knowledge that just because someone is angry at us, does not mean we have done anything wrong.
Yes, we are to be serene and secure in the truth of the message and not consumed with how people react. We need not be strident and argumentative, we don’t have to raise our voices or fearful, angry or resentful. All we need to do is serenely preach the truth and leave the judgment up to God.
IV. Simplicity - The text says, Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way.
One of the things that keeps many of us from fully preaching the kingdom is that we are encumbered and hindered by so many things and activities. The Lord here tells us to travel light, then we shall be unencumbered, available and free. Too often today, spiritual truths are neglected and crowded out by worldly concerns. They’ll get their kids to soccer or basketball but Sunday school and Mass goes neglected. Likewise, many of us are too wealthy, too invested in this world. As a result we are not free to preach, we have too much to lose.
Note that the Lord calls us to simplicity in three areas:
- Purse - The Lord says, carry no money bag. For riches root us in this world and make us a slave of its ways. Riches are bondage, poverty (free from greed) is a kind of freedom, since those who are poorer, have less to loose. Scripture says, But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:9-10).
- Possessions – The Lord says carry, no sack, no extra sandals. And in this regard we are encouraged to resist the tendency to accumulate possessions. These things too weigh us down. On account of them we are forever caught up in the latest fashions, upgrades, and deluxe models. For our stuff there is also insurance, maintenance, upgrades, etc. Too much stuff roots us in the world and distracts us from more essential things. Too much stuff, it’ll wear you ought, carrying around too much stuff. The Lord advises: travel light, simplify. Scripture says elsewhere, Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble with it. (Proverbs 15:16)
- People - The text says, greet no one along the way. Here too we have to admit that some folks in life do not help us in our Christian walk or duty. Instead they hinder us, tempt us or simply get us to focus on foolish and passing things. The Lord has something for these 72 to do and he wants them to get there and do it. This is not a time to stop along the way and chat with every passerby. The same is true for us. We ought to be careful of the company we keep and ponder if our friends and acquaintances help or hinder us in our task of proclaiming the Kingdom. Scripture warns: Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” (1 Cor 15:33) And again, I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral men…I wrote to you not to associate with any one who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber — not even to eat with such a one. (1 Cor 5:9)
Thus, the Lord counsels, travel light, simplify. Our many possessions weigh us down and make life difficult. Look at the opulence of today, yet look at the stress. Simplify, travel light. Also, avoid complicating and compromising relationships.
V. Stability – The Lord says, 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.
In other words find out where home is, where the Lord wants you, and stay there. Stop all this modern running about. Develop in-depth relationships and stability. In the old days, long term relationships served as the basis for the communication of the truths of faith, not just between individuals, but across generations and in close-knit neighborhoods and communities. Today with all the moving around things are more shallow.
But Lord counsels that we stay close to home, frequent holy places. We ought to do everything we can to find stability and roots. It is in stable contexts and deep roots, deep relationships that the Gospel is best preached. Many parents today seldom have dinner with their children, indeed, with all the running around there is little time at all to teach or preach the faith!
- She is loud and wayward, for her feet do not stay at home; now in the street, now in the market (Proverbs 7:11-12)
- Like a bird that strays from its nest, is a man who strays from his home. (Proverbs 27:8).
VI. Sensitivity - Jesus says, 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.‘
In other words, be gracious and kind. Simple human kindness and a gracious demeanor goes a long way in opening doors for the gospel. Eat what is put before you. In other words, wherever possible reverence the local culture, build on common ground, find and affirm what is right. Don’t just be the critic. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. Sure there are ways we can be gracious. Little kindnesses are long remembered and pave the way for trust and openness.
That the sick should be cured is clear in itself. But in a more extended sense, we see how kindness, patience and understanding are also healing. We must speak the truth, but we must learn to speak it in love, not merely in confrontation or harsh criticism.
Simple kindness and sensitivity are counseled here: eat what is set before you.
VII. Soul Saving Joy the text says, 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.“
They have the joy of success that day. There will be other days of rejection and even martyrdom. That’s why Jesus counsels to have a deeper source of joy: merely that they have been called and have their names written in heaven.
There is no greater evidence to the truth of our faith than joyful and transformed Christians. Mother Theresa said, Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.
Thus the Lord counsels that we cultivate joy at what he is doing for us, how he is delivering us and giving us power over the demons in our life. There is no greater joy than to remember what the Lord has done for us, that he has saved us and written our names in heaven. Yes remember! Have so present in your mind and heart what the Lord has done for you so that you are grateful, joyful and different! This is soul-saving joy. A joy that will save your soul and others too.
Here then are seven principles for proclaiming the Kingdom. Now lets get serious. There is work to do. Many are being lost. Time to cast our nets!