In last Sunday’s Gospel, Luke recounted the hostility Jesus faced on the road to Jerusalem. In this week’s Gospel passage, by contrast, he is quick to reveal the joy to be found on the same journey. The privations and conflict placed Jesus and his disciples in a position to encounter God’s love and action even more deeply. With that encounter came a deep peace that no difficulty could undo.
‘Cure the sick in it and say to them, “The kingdom of God is at hand for you.”’ (Lk 10:9)
How has trusting in God taught you about divine love?
Do you know someone who needs to hear that God is near?
How can you best share that good news?
Life on the road required a reordering of priorities. Poverty, hostility and rejection remained constant realities. As last week’s Gospel showed, ties of comfort and family could no longer be one’s first concern. Jesus instructed his disciples not to draw attention to themselves on the road, and once in a town to live simply and accept whatever hospitality is offered. If a town rejected them, they were just to move on. They could express their irritation ritually by shaking the dust from their feet and invoking the memory of Sodom, but they were to leave the rest to God. They were not to succumb to the desire for revenge or to discouragement.
Luke recounts that, in spite of the hardships, 72 disciples rose to the challenge. In this, they discovered a new joy: They were becoming like Jesus. They had heard him preach; they may have even followed and assisted his work. Now that they had adopted his lifestyle, Jesus was entrusting his own mission to them, to go from town to town preaching the Gospel and healing the sick. They reflected his very identity. “Whoever listens to you listens to me” (Lk 10:16), Jesus promised them, and the success they found resembled the one Jesus himself had earlier enjoyed.
Life on the road brought with it a deepening sense of God’s love. Joy characterizes this Sunday’s Gospel. Jesus was quick to emphasize the real source of that joy—that each disciple was known and loved in heaven. Taking up the proclamation of God’s reign placed the disciples in an unexpectedly rich relationship with God and the world. This new relationship brought with it shalom, a quiet joy rooted in grace that no hostile force could extinguish. This inner peace was the first gift the disciples had to offer to anyone who received them.
Christ offers this quiet joy to his disciples today. Many of us do not need to be reminded of our poverty. For some, the poverty is indeed material as incomes fall and opportunities dwindle. Many more experience a poverty of hope. The task before us is immense, and we can feel poorly prepared or ill-equipped to face it, but the world remains eager to feel the peace we can bring them. When a parent responds to a child’s mental illness, when a friend commits to helping a neighbor get through a period of unemployment, when a businessman takes time every day to speak to the homeless person outside his workplace, when the activist takes up a struggle against injustice and the forces of death, when a relative writes to a cousin in rehab or prison, each has found a way to share the peace that comes from the knowledge that God is near.