(Saint Bernardine’s Church, Regents Park: Saturday 6pm; Sunday 7.30am & 9am)
6/7 July 2013
(Readings: Isaiah 66:10-14; Ps 65; Gal 6:14-18; Lk 10:1-12, 17-20)
It was a Jewish legend going back to the time of Isaiah that God would allow the world to continue so long as there were at least 36 good people who respond with compassion to the sufferings of the human family. In today’s Gospel, Jesus appointed 72 others to go out into the world to continue his mission – double the number 36. The message that they are sent out with is a simple message: “The kingdom of God is very near to you.” “The reign of God is at hand.” They are to be the living embodiment of the consolation and comfort that Isaiah spoke of in our First Reading (1).
In that prophecy, God promises to send peace flowing like a river, and he promises to comfort his people, just like a small child is comforted on his or her mother’s lap. There is something unique about the love between a mother and child; a special bond arises when a woman has carried new life within her, and given birth to that new life from her own body. And the words of Scripture apply that love to God’s love for us. It is a mother’s instinct to protect her children, and to keep her family together … and such is God’s love for us. The words of the prophet Isaiah can be an encouragement to us never to fear coming to the Lord, just as infants instinctively want to be held in the arms of their mother … we can feel that same loving protection in the arms of God.
As Jesus sends the 72 out, he prepares them for what they’re going to experience. You would think that a message of comfort and consolation – of a God who loves us completely and eternally – would be a welcome message. But Jesus knows that the devil is abroad. “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven,” Jesus said. Minds have been closed – even partially – to God’s ways. Demonic forces roam the world, stopping the light of God from shining so brightly; chaining people, and stopping them from living the freedom of God’s children. But Jesus encourages those he sends not to be fearful: his power is greater than everything, and even just his name is powerful. A truth borne out and lived by our patron, Saint Bernadine, who had such a love of the holy name of Jesus. Even just to speak the name Jesus in faith is a most powerful prayer. That’s why it’s always wrong to casually use the name of Jesus, or to swear with it.
It’s not difficult to see the work of the devil in our world … and this is something that Pope Francis clearly believes. On Friday, he and Pope Benedict together blessed a statue of St Michael the archangel in the Vatican gardens, and he consecrated the Vatican to Saint Michael – something most needed at this time when there seem to be so many problems so close to the Holy Father. What the Pope said on Friday echoes the words of Jesus when Jesus said that he has given his followers the power to tread underfoot the whole strength of the enemy.
The Pope said, “Michael – which means “Who is like God” – is the champion of the primacy of God, of His transcendence and power. Michael struggles to restore divine justice and defends the People of God from his enemies, above all by the enemy par excellence, the devil. And St. Michael wins because in him, there is He – God – who acts. This sculpture reminds us then that evil is overcome, the accuser is unmasked, his head crushed, because salvation was accomplished once and for all in the blood of Christ. Though the devil always tries to disfigure the face of the Archangel and that of humanity, God is stronger, it is His victory and His salvation that is offered to all men. We are not alone on the journey or in the trials of life, we are accompanied and supported by the Angels of God, who offer, so to speak, their wings to help us overcome so many dangers, in order to fly high compared to those realities that can weigh down our lives or drag us down. In consecrating Vatican City State to St. Michael the Archangel, I ask him to defend us from the evil one and banish him. [Text from page http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2013/07/05/benedict_xvi_joins_pope_francis_in_consecrating_vatican_to_st_michae/en1-707709
of the Vatican Radio website].
Jesus prepared the 72 to face indifference and rejection. They are to treat rejection matter of factly: move on, there is always more work to be done. He proposes a simplicity for those sent on his mission: they are not to encumbered by unnecessary things. They are to be ready to go where they’re needed. They need to be able to get in to where the proclamation of the Good News of the Kingdom is most needed.
The Good News message of Jesus meets with resistance – even today – because Jesus makes a complete claim on us. We can’t keep faith with him and with the world at the same time. He demands total allegiance. He challenges the way we think and act. If we say “yes” to Christ then we’re going to have to let go of some of the things we think; his light will shed light into our minds and hearts and reveal those things that are not God’s ways … and it can be a hard thing to let go of those things. And the struggle comes in because we know the truth deep down in our conscience … and we know that we will only find true happiness to the extent that we say yes to Christ and allow him to the be Lord of our lives.
And so, today the Lord invites us to come to Him. He wants us to be as close to him in trust and love as an infant is to his or her mother. He wants us to depend on him for our security and strength. United with him in his desire for the salvation of the world, he sends us … in fact, he is counting on us to show His loving face to the people of our time: to bind up the wounds of the broken, to bring his healing to the sick and the afflicted; to let His light shine to scatter the darkness of error, and all the forces that fight against God.
May the sustenance this eucharist provides help us to live our mission and apostolate in our own time and place.
(1) Living Faith: Daily Catholic Devotionals, July, August, September 2013