Jesus appointed seventy-two other disciples 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.” (Luke 10:1-12)
For me, one of the most memorable quotes of men and women who have given their life for Christ was uttered by Francis of Assisi when he said: “Preach the gospel always and, if necessary, use words.”
The 72 disciples in today’s Gospel were sent out to do exactly that.
Jesus gave his disciples instructions on how they were to carry out their ministry. They must go and serve as people without guile, full of charity (selfless giving in love) and peace, and simplicity.
They must give their full attention to the proclamation of God’s kingdom and not be diverted by other lesser things.
They must travel light – only take what was essential and leave behind whatever would distract them – in order to concentrate on the task of speaking the word of the God.
They must do their work, not for what they can get out of it, but for what they can give freely to others, without expecting reward or payment. “Poverty of spirit” frees us from greed and preoccupation with possessions and makes ample room for God’s provision. The Lord Jesus wants his disciples to be dependent on him and not on themselves.
He gave them a message to carry. Jesus placed words on the lips of the 72 as he sent them out: He said that they were to wish their listeners “Peace” and to say that “the kingdom of God is at hand!” The two are intrinsically connected.
Jesus wanted them to be heralds of the joy that comes from peace and reconciliation with God, which has an enormous potential to attract others who are so obviously not at peace with God and others.
Why were the 72 so effective? Why was that message grow to be a predominant religion which would survive 13 waves aimed at snuffing it out?
Because they lived out the words of Christ. Isn’t that more effective than words?
When we preach the gospel, we do not show up with Jesus, as if we were delivering pizza. Our purpose is to identify in the lives of others the ways in which Jesus is already present to them. If we wish to be proclaimers of God’s word, we must be people of humility, realizing that Jesus is already there before we arrive.
Many of us have members of our family who do not practice the Christian faith. Maybe at one time they did, but do so no longer. How do we preach the gospel to them? Not by lecturing them where they should be on Sunday mornings. But rather by humbly making ourselves a part of their lives, celebrating with them their blessings, standing with them in their struggles. They know how much our faith means to us and our presence to them gives that faith credibility. Our love and acceptance of them is a proclamation of the kingdom of God.
Whenever someone in our life suffers from loss or pain, we have an opportunity to proclaim the gospel. When someone must cope with the loss of a loved one in death, the breakup of a marriage, or a serious illness, our compassion and our presence are signs that God is near. We do not need to wear our faith on our sleeve. Simple words such as “I am praying for you,” are more powerful than deep theological arguments. They witness that God is close and that God cares.
When we see something that is wrong, an injustice in our workplace, bullying in our school, we have the chance to proclaim the gospel. We do this not by offering scripture quotations, but by standing with the person who is demeaned and insisting, “This is not right. This needs to change.” They will see in our commitment and courage the faith that motivates us, and they will hear that the kingdom of God is at hand.
We are called to spread the gospel. This means we must be people of faith and commitment. But it is the humble person who is most likely to succeed. A friend is more effective than a philosopher. A companion progresses more easily than a teacher. A servant moves hearts more deeply than an orator.
Let’s go preach the Gospel today and try not to use words.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, may the joy and truth of the Gospel transform my life that I may witness it to those around me. Grant that I may spread your truth and merciful love wherever I go.”
When you look at the spread of Christianity through the first centuries, it was precisely through two sources, charity and martyrdom. The charity was legendary: the new Christians were selling their property and laying the proceeds at the feet of the apostles to share with whoever in their new family of faith needed it. This was just one expression of their loving communion. The love that existed among them was so strong that people were busting down the doors of their house churches to enter, despite the fact that to be a Christian entailed in some places persecution and even death.