Gospel: Lk 10:1-12, 17-20
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. He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way. Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’ If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his payment. Do not move about from one house to another. Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’ Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say, ‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.’ Yet know this: the kingdom of God is at hand. I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town.”
The seventy-two returned rejoicing, and said, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.” Jesus said, “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky. Behold, I have given you the power to ‘tread upon serpents’ and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you,
but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
When I was rector of the major seminary in the mid to late nineties, I asked a young man who was applying for entry to explain why he wanted to become a priest. His answer shocked me. It should not have because the disciples gave the same answer to Jesus. He said to me, calling the name of the local exorcist, that he wanted to be a priest like him with power over the devil.
In fact this young man was echoing the reason why so many young men choose a particular profession. It is so often a question of power.
In the gospel reading for this weekend the disciples rejoice in the power which they have exercised over the demons. Jesus affirms the power given to them but reminds them that their rejoicing must never be about the power which they have but only because they are citizens of the Kingdom destined for heaven.
It is important for us to understand why the disciples are destined for heaven. It is because of their fidelity to the mission that Jesus has given to them, a mission which includes the manner in which the mission is fulfilled. They go on mission, not as powerful persons but as laborers, not concerned about their own wellbeing but as “lambs among wolves” willing to undergo danger for the sake of the mission. They go on mission taking nothing that has the potential to distract them from the work at hand. They “carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way.” The success of the mission will depend on their ability to focus on the task at hand and not be distracted. They have to rely not on any external power but only on the power of the message that they bring. They go out like that into a hostile world, like lambs in the midst of wolves. In other words they go out into a world which does not accept the message and the values of Jesus. Some people will accept them, and to these they must transmit the vision. They must say “The Kingdom of God is very near to you”. Many however will reject them, and when that happens they must believe that the vision will overcome. They are told “Yet be sure of this, the Kingdom of God is very near.” In other words they are to believe in the power of God to bring about transformation, even in the face of rejection.
This is extremely important for T&T at this moment in our history. Trinidad means Unity in diversity. It is a dream, a vision that many aspire to. The Kingdom is very near for these. But many also do not share the vision. And in the face of this we must tell them that we will not join them in their mistaken goals, of ethnic and class superiority, of wealth to the detriment of others. “We will wipe off the very dust of your town that clings to our feet” and we must remember that the Kingdom is very near. The vision will overcome.
The Gospel calls us to thank God on this Sunday for the people, famous and not so famous who inspire us by the power of their convictions. We thank God for Mother Teresa whose convictions inspired so many to join her in the mission of service to the least in our midst. We thank God for Nelson Mandela, the power of whose conviction brought about and continues to bring about reconciliation in his land. And we thank God for people in our midst who with deep faith and trust in God and only with the power of their convictions are able to work wonders among our people. Institutions like Servol, and Hope in Sangre Grande are the result of such spiritualities.
So today in the midst of our problems, we pray that we become people of conviction, people convinced of the truth of the message of Jesus, and we pray for great hope, so that even in the darkest hours we will know and be sure that “The Kingdom of God is very near”
All powerful, ever living and all loving God, We thank you for the people of deep conviction in our world. We thank you for the message of the Gospel and for the hope that it engenders in our lives. We pray that we will be so convinced of the power of the Good News that we will not be ashamed to proclaim it as our sure hope of salvation. May it so touch our lives as individuals and as a nation that we will be able to experience that the Kingdom is indeed near to us. We thank you for the powerful examples of hope in your word, that surround us. May we become signs of hope for those living in terrible situations; so that in the midst of their pain they may be sure that the Kingdom is very near. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.