Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 10:1-12, 17-20
The first reading is from the third section of Isaiah. The three sections of this book, so favored over the years by pious Jews as well as devout Christians, saw a great sweep of Hebrew history, from before the Babylonian conquest, through the exile of many Jews to Babylon, the imperial capital, and finally to the Jews’ return to their ancestral home.
This return was bittersweet. Poverty and despair stalked the land. Cynicism, at best, must have been everywhere. Where was God in all this?
The prophet majestically and relentlessly reassured the people that if they are faithful, God will sustain them. It was a great summons to faith, but the prophet reminded the people of God’s mercy and favor so well demonstrated at other times.
The Epistle to the Galatians provides the next reading. It proclaims Jesus to be the Lord and Savior. Paul insists that he himself is no bearer of salvation. Jesus, the Christ, is the Savior. The Lord is our only hope. Here, “Christ” is not a name, but a title. It means the select of God, chosen to be the Redeemer.
St. Luke’s Gospel supplies the last reading. Already Jesus is making plans to announce the Good News far and wide. The crucifixion and resurrection have not yet occurred at this point in the Gospel, but the Lord is calling all people to be reconciled with God and to find God’s peace and hope. Jesus sends 72 disciples, in pairs, to distant places to convey this call. All people are in God’s love.
Jesus instructs these disciples to carry no provisions. God will provide for them. They must focus their intentions upon their mission of representing Jesus, not upon their earthly needs.
It is not an order to these disciples that they be foolhardy, or that they dismiss the realities of life on earth. Rather, it makes clear that their primary mission is spiritual, of and for God. No secondary consideration should distract the disciples.
The Lord warns that many people will not accept these delegates from God. People are blind and attached to sin. Those who reject God cannot be coerced to do otherwise. This is their freedom, but, nevertheless, those who turn away from God and spurn God’s redemption bring doom upon themselves; not as divine revenge, but as simple consequence of their choice to reject God.
This week, the country commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776. This document has come to represent the basic political philosophy of the United States: that freedom is essential for, and integral to, every person. This does not mean, however, that freedom creates the license to do anything. Laws protect rights as well as liberties, and they set responsibilities.
All this fully is within the historic Catholic concept of human nature and of the dignity of each person. No philosophy or policy in vogue today excels the Catholic belief in the worth, and potential, of each person.
Respecting others, and realizing personal potential in the moral sense, can be a chore. Original sin has made us all nearsighted and insecure. It leads us to abuse our freedom and to forfeit our dignity by sinning. It renders us limited, self-centered and afraid, in spiritual matters as well as in other considerations.
Yet, God has not abandoned us to our plight. Seeing us in our needs and our failures, God gave us Jesus, so wonderfully extolled by Paul.
We need God. We find God in Jesus. Redemption in Christ means our restoration from the effects of original sin. If we earnestly accept the Lord, Jesus gives us the perception and the strength to be truly free, to escape the captivity and the consequences of sin.
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