The Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!” And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you.
‘Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the labourer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, “Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.” I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.’
Today we are reminded that we are all called to go out into the world as apostles of Christ. Jesus’ injunction to the seventy others is clear: Go on your way. Jesus sends those apostles out in pairs because he knows the dangers that lurk around every corner. He also tells them to go ‘as they are’, without elaborate preparations and large amounts of luggage. Jesus knows that he is sending them out like lambs going into the midst of wolves.
Many of us consider the challenge of living and preaching the gospel as being beyond us. We struggle with the ridicule and rejection with which we are confronted. We like to think of this aspect of the Christian faith as being the job of the professionals! But, of course, we should all consider ourselves to be ‘professionals’ when it comes to living and preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Whilst some are called to travel far and wide furthering the mission and ministry of the Church, others are called to live out their faith in their local community. Those who travel far and wide are urged by Jesus to travel in faith. The Franciscan Order is a good example of this. Franciscans have no worldly possessions, in honour of their oath of poverty, and as they travel they do so in faith, relying upon the charity, the love, of those whom they serve. We are all called to embrace this model. We are all called to set aside our ‘need’ to prepare for every possible eventuality as we travel and to trust that God will provide.
For those who are called to serve in their local communities, our Lord’s words are no less potent. As we meet friends, family and neighbours we are called to radiate the love and light of Christ in all we say and do. We are called to set aside our love of local gossip and our engagement with local mischief and focus on loving and serving in the name of Jesus Christ.
All of this is a challenge. Whether we are stepping into the unknown or the familiar, Jesus’ words remain just as relevant. We are sent out to be disciples and apostles. We are called to follow that path trusting in God alone. And … when we meet hostility and rejection (those wolves!) we need to turn away and focus on those who want to feel the joy of God’s kingdom in their midst. We are not called to judge, that task belongs to God alone, but we are called to continue journeying in faith and in joy, in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.