Then both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, "It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you reject it and judge yourselves to be unworthy of eternal life, we are now turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, "I have set you to be a light for the Geniles, so that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'"
When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and praised the word of the Lord; and as many as had been destined for eternal life became believers. Thus the word of the Lord spread throughout the region.
After this 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.'
Jesus sent 72 missionaries to go before Him to prepare for his own arrival and to proclaim that “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” We believe that in Jesus the kingdom of God has come near to us. The bringer of grace and peace – God in the flesh – has come among us. The heart of the earliest Christian message is this Good News that the Son of God has come to unite us with God and put us in favour with our Father in heaven. These were ambassadors for Christ, going into the surrounding towns where he was about to go. They were going in his name and by his command, carrying the peace of God with them – a special gift from Jesus, delivered through the mouths of his co-workers.
This is also the task of the pastor, bringing God's peace to his people. When Christ's servants said peace on this house", it was a truly effective prayer, something more than mere wishful thinking. Jesus says: “Whoever hears you hears Me” (Luke 10:16.) These ambassadors went out in the name of Christ and with his gracious authority. Since the Word of the Lord does what it says, when Christ's servants wish peace on a household, it is really given -- though it also needs to be welcomed and received. God's peace comes with his help, his healing, and his mercy. Jesus Christ sends the 72 as his voice and hands, bringing his healing presence and sharing his Gospel with their neighbours.
We notice that these missionary messengers reported by Saint Luke in today's Gospel were much more numerous than the twelve apostles. One early tradition suggests that Luke himself was one of these seventy-two missionaries. In some sense, they stand for all of us, baptised and confirmed Christians, who are called to take our own part in the mission of Jesus. You don't have to be ordained like a modern pastor or parish priest, in order to be an instrument of the Gospel. Even if your specific task is not to preach or to baptize, you can be a friendly voice of welcome and encouragement, so that others can get a sense of God, and perhaps gather for worship.
Mostly we neglect to invite others to share our faith. We are too shy or embarrassed to suggest to othershow to make room for God in their hearts. How often do we repeat his blessing: “Peace be to this house.” If we shy away from doing our bit, how shall the faith be passed on to the next generation? We may even be saying, “No!” to Jesus. Yet he does not give up on us. He continues to reach out and draw us to take our part in the Gospel mission. If we just pray in our hearts, “O Lord, open my lips” he will give us the opportunity and the words to help others to come and find the peace and joy of his friendship.
With Saint Francis of Assisi we can pray, "Lord, make us instruments of your peace!" Surely he will give us opportunities to be instruments of his peace, and quiet chances to be his living and loving presence to others. He blesses us, that we may witness him in our lives, so others may be inclined to gather around our living Lord.
Cyril and Methodius were brothers born in 9th century Thessalonika in northern Greece, in the Byzantine Roman empire. They became Christian missionaries among the Slavic peoples of Moravia and Pannonia (modern Czech Republic and Hungary). Through their work they influenced the cultural development of all the Slavic peoples, for which they received the title "Apostles to the Slavs." They are still highly regarded among the peoples along the river Danube. Pope Benedict XVI gave this exhortation about them (2009) to a group of Slavic Christians:
"The words of Jesus, written in large letters above the entrance to your Cathedral, he addresses to each of us: "Learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Mt 11:29-30). Here, as elsewhere, many people suffered in past centuries for remaining faithful to the Gospel, and they did not lose hope; many people sacrificed themselves in order to restore dignity to man and freedom to peoples, finding in their generous adherence to Christ the strength to build a new humanity. In present-day society, many forms of poverty are born from isolation, from being unloved, from the rejection of God and from a deep-seated tragic closure in man who believes himself to be self-sufficient, or else merely an insignificant and transient datum; in this world of ours which is alienated when too much trust is placed in merely human projects, only Christ can be our certain hope.
This is the message that we Christians are called to spread every day, through our witness. Proclaim it yourselves, as you exercise your ministry enthusiastically, certain that nothing can be lacking in those who put their trust in him. Bear witness to Christ through the joyful and consistent practice of the evangelical counsels, indicating where our true homeland lies: in Heaven. And you, dear young people, dear lay faithful, dear families, base on the firm foundation of faith in Christ whatever plans you have for your family, for work, for school, for activities in every sphere. Jesus never abandons his friends. He assures us of his help, for nothing can be done without him, but he asks everyone to make a personal commitment to spread his universal message of love and peace."
Cyril and Methodius were brothers from northern Greece who in the ninth century preached the gospel in Moravia, modern day Czech Republic, Slovakia and parts of Hungary. As part of this service they translated the Scriptures and the liturgical texts into the local Slavic language, since only if the texts were in the vernacular could they communicate them to the local people. In the process they invented a new alphabet, from which the present Slav alphabet is derived. For that reason they are honoured as the founders of Slavonic literature. Because of opposition they had to leave Moravia and at the invitation of the Pope they travelled to Rome. There Cyril became a monk and he is buried in the Irish Dominican church of San Clemente, where an ancient fresco depicts his funeral. Methodius returned to Moravia where he preached the gospel in spite of great opposition, including opposition from local bishops who objected to his use of the vernacular. Cyril and Methodius were labourers in the Lord's harvest. In today's gospel, Jesus sends out 72, and he calls on those 72 to ask God to send more labourers to the harvest. We are all called to be labourers in the Lord's harvest in one way or another. We may not be asked to travel far from our homes, like Cyril and Methodius. We can labour on behalf of the Lord where we find ourselves. The Lord will always provide us with opportunities to help to make his kingdom present to others.