July 3, 2016 — Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
“At that time the Lord appointed seventy-two others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit.” That is how our Gospel from Luke begins today. Are you aware that we, too, are sent? We, too, are to represent the Lord in our dealings with others. That is in large part what stewardship is all about — using our gifts to spread the Good News.
Of course, serving the Lord and being true to our faith is not without trials and risks. In the First Reading from the prophet Isaiah, the prophet makes reference to this. However, he also assures us that God is with us at all times, that… “as a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” It is difficult to have a more vivid comparison as a mother comforting a child. Yet, that is the kind of love and care the Lord has for us. He may challenge us and ask us to go out in His name, but He is also with us always and prepared to provide us the love to continue.
There is no question that St. Paul is one of the major apostles and contributors to what the Church is today. Heeding Christ’s instructions as included in today’s Gospel reading, Paul traveled the known world at that time, from Arabia to Damascus to Europe. He visited Jerusalem to see St. Peter, and later was martyred at about the same time as Peter in Rome. Paul’s letter to the Galatians is addressed “to the churches of Galatia,” which indicates he was ministering to several groups in Galatia. Galatia itself is considered by most scholars to be a Roman province in central Asia Minor, which was populated by immigrant Celts around 300 BC.
As is often the case, scholars do not universally agree on exactly which letters were written by Paul, but Catholic scholars tend to attribute 13 books of the New Testament to St. Paul. Estimates range from 25 to 75 percent of the New Testament can be attributed to Paul. However, experts seem to universally agree that the Letter to the Galatians is completely his. Paul’s letters are so rich in content and instruction that it is difficult to summarize them. The Letter to the Galatians seems to have been written to address two issues — the nature of salvation and how that relates to Jewish Law.
Without getting into detail, today’s Second Reading represents these two ideas, in that Paul makes it clear. When Paul closes today’s reading by saying “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit,” he is capturing the essence of everything he is trying to teach. He wants the Galatians to know that salvation comes from the grace of God, not from keeping Jewish Law.
Today’s Gospel from Luke relates some important information about Jesus and the early Christians. First of all, it is clear He had more than just 12 followers (the Apostles) as He sends 72 additional people out to prepare the way. The Lord’s statement “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few” is a direct statement to each of us. If we accept the image provided, Jesus sees the entire world and all its peoples as the potential harvest. It is as if a farmer had a huge potential crop, but he had no laborers to assist with gathering that crop. We are called to be the laborers.
The Lord is reliant upon us, on each and every one of us, to serve as laborers in His vineyard. There are incredible needs among humankind. Each of us probably realizes that but part of our frustration is viewing ourselves as such a small contributor to helping the Lord. Note that all those He sent returned, and they returned with joy and a great sense of satisfaction. They learned that when they did what Jesus told them to do, they could anticipate blessings beyond their expectations.
They also reported to Jesus that they were successful “in your name.” That is what will make us successful as well, keeping our focus on working for the Lord and in the Lord’s name. That is the nature of discipleship and stewardship.