The missioning of the Seventy Two

Al Cariño, OMI
Editor: Mindanao Cross
Reproduced with Permission

14th Sunday in ordinary times

Some subjects students take in school require a practicum, a kind of apprenticeship, so that they will have the opportunity to apply theory to practice. In His time, Jesus was already using this teaching methodology. A few months after He called seventy two men to be His disciples, He formed them not only through His teachings but also by sending them on mission, their practicum. Before sending them out, Jesus gave them specific instructions, as teachers do.

First, Jesus told them to go in two's. This for practical reasons. They were sent out to testify on what Jesus had taught and done. Now among the Jews, for a testimony to be accepted, the word of two witnesses was required. Moreover, talking to others in the presence of a companion would ensure that what was said reflected Jesus' teachings and not his own.

Second, Jesus stressed that they should not be distracted from their mission. Thus they were to go with nothing else than the clothes they wore: “Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals.” Instead, they had to put themselves into the hands of complete strangers, without any assurance that they would be welcomed.

Then as they enter a house, they were to extend a greeting of peace. In the Old Testament, peace was more than the absence of war; it included personal and social security and well–being (material and spiritual). The greeting of peace was not only a salutation; it was also a prayer that the one greeted would actually have security and well–being. And if the greeting found no worthy recipient, it returned to the speaker.

If they were not welcomed in one house, they were not to insist. Instead, they were to proceed to the next. If they were welcomed there, they were to say to those in the house, “The kingdom of God is at hand.” The very same message Jesus proclaimed when He started His public ministry (Mt. 4:17), to receive which they had to reform their lives first.

This was the outline of the approach to be followed by Jesus' disciples during their mission. As it appears, all precautions and built-in safeguards were thrown to the winds.

From the beginning, Jesus told them the primary purpose of their mission: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest.” With these words, Jesus was telling them and, in our own time, is telling us that every follower of Jesus is to share in His mission to proclaim the Good News of Salvation to all. For “we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers.” This is a privilege and a task! To be worthy of this privilege and to carry out this task, we are to give our all — our thoughts, words and deeds, our entire life. Like the first disciples, we are asked to proclaim Jesus' person and His message and give witness to His saving love.

The hunger of people for Jesus and His message even in our day is illustrated in the experience of a foreign missionary to China before the Communists expelled them in the 50's. He came upon an old woman by the wayside — deserted, cold and hungry.

“Why do you bother about me?” the old lady whispered feebly when the priest tried to help her as best as he could. “Nobody else cares. Why should you?”

“God made you and me,” the missionary replied. “He said to go out over the world and help everyone who is in need.”

Pondering over the words of the priest, she said, “What a beautiful religion. Where did it come from? Who started it?” Whereupon the priest started to teach her about God who was so interested in our world, who loves us so much that He sent His own Son to bring salvation to all of us.

“Your Christ,” the old woman went on, “He isn't long dead, is He?” When the priest said that He died almost two thousand years ago, she was amazed. “Do you mean to say that it has been two thousand years since Christ commanded His followers to spread the Good News of His love for mankind? Why, where were you Christians been all this time?”

“Why, where were you Christians been all this time?” may well be the hard question the world we live in is addressing to us as followers of Jesus committed to proclaim His person and His message.

Jesus needs workers for His harvest for the proclamation of Jesus and His message. This task is not limited only to bishops, priests and religious brothers and sisters or to people like the missionary in China but includes every baptized Christian — meaning, you and I. And we can go beyond what the seventy two disciples were asked to do. How? By making every moment, every day of our lives, a practicum, that is, by living the “Good News” of Jesus not only in words but and specially in deeds.