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.
The brothers Cyril and Methodius were from Thessalonica in northern Greece, in the 9th century. They became missionaries among the Slavs of Moravia and Pannonia (modern Czech Republic and Hungary). Their work was so vital to the cultural development of that area that they received the title “Apostles to the Slavs.” They are still highly regarded among the peoples along the river Danube.
Jesus sent out seventy two missionary friends to go and prepare for his own arrival in various villages and to proclaim “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” It is through Jesus himself that the kingdom of God has come among us. The bringer of grace and peace – God in the flesh – has become one of us. The heart of the Christian message is that the Son of God unites us with God and make us children of our Father in heaven.
These co-workers were ambassadors for Christ, carrying the peace of God with them – a special gift from Jesus, delivered from the heart of his co-workers.
This is also the task of pastors, to bring God’s peace to his people. When they say “peace on this house” it is an effective prayer, more than mere wishful thinking. He said, “Whoever hears you hears me” (Luke 10:16.) These ambassadors went out with his gracious healing. When Christ’s servants wish peace on a household, it is a real gift, but one that needs to be welcomed and received. God’s peace comes with his healing and his mercy. Jesus Christ sends his missionaries as his voice and hands, to bless people as he himself would bless them.
These missionary messengers were a much larger band than the twelve apostles. It’s possible that Luke himself was one of these seventy-two. One could say that they stand for all baptised and confirmed Christians, who are called to take our own part in the mission of Jesus. You don’t need to be ordained in order to be an instrument of the Gospel. Even if our specific task is not to preach or to baptize, one can be a friendly voice of welcome and share with others our sense of God as the Father of welcomes who calls us together for worship.
Many feel inhibited from prompting others to find room for God in their hearts. But if we shy away out of embarrassment from ever sharing faith, how can our faith be passed on to the next generation? Jesus continues inviting 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 both the opportunity and the words to reach out to others and help them find the peace and joy of his friendship.
With St Francis of Assisi we could pray to day, “Lord, make us instruments of your peace!” If we are willing, he will give us chances to be his healing presence to others. He blesses us, that we may share his views and values, so others may be inclined to find life in him.