By Bishop David McGough
Fourteenth Sunday of the Year Isaiah 66:10-14; Galatians 6:14-18; Luke 10:1-12 & 17-20
4 The Lord appointed 72 others and sent
them ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places that he himself was to visit."
The Gospel narrative of the mission of the 72 disciples anticipated the vocation that is ours as members of the Church. The message that they were to proclaim was simple: "The Kingdom of God is very near to you." With those first disciples it is for us to bring our world into the presence of Christ, to proclaim that the kingdom of God is very near.
We communicate this Good News in many different ways. Some are ordained as ministers of the Word. Others undergo long instruction as professional teachers and catechists. The overwhelming majority, however. are called to make God's kingdom known through the witness and faith of their lives.
Most of us are reluctant disciples when it comes to publicising our faith. In a world of slick communication we fear that we do not have the necessary skills to make ourselves heard. On a deeper level we perhaps fear that we have nothing to say.
As we listen to the words of the prophet Isaiah we begin to realise that we have much to say. The Word of God begins by inviting us to discover anew the forgotten joy in our lives. The words were addressed originally to a broken and defeated Jerusalem, but they apply equally to the vanquished hope and joy in every generation. "Rejoice, Jerusalem, be glad for her, all you who love her. Rejoice, all you who mourned for her?"
As the passage continues, using the image of a suckling mother, we are reminded of a hidden, broken self that yearns to be nurtured and comforted. As we long for the uncomplicated embrace of a mother, so we long for the God who reveals himself as tenderness and compassion. The passage highlights the joy that is ours as we realise that Christ, coming into the world, is the fulfilment of all our hopes. We feel that we have tittle to say, and yet. in Christ, we have everything that is worth saying. We are that dry land that welcomes the peace of Christ as a flowing river, the abundance of his grace like a stream in spate.
If the joy of Christ's presence is to speak through our lives, we, like those 72 disciples, must be prepared. As they set out they were to carry nothing with them. Extreme though these instructions seem, they remind us of the superficial clutter that supports most of our lives. We surround ourselves with people and possessions that can never give us the security for which we long. This clutter can even seduce us into exaggerating what we are and what we have to offer. With St Paul we can only boast in a crucified Lord. It was in the abject poverty of our crucified Lord that Paul understood that we have nothing to offer, that it is in the grace of the Father that we are raised up with Jesus Christ.
In prayer we recognise the clutter and poverty of our lives. Of ourselves, we have nothing to say. In the joy of Christ we have everything to say. When we stop looking after the purse and sandals we have a great deal to say.