On the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, we are given many orders: we are ordered to rejoice with Jerusalem (a figure of the Church); to be glad because of her; to pray the Master of the harvest to send laborers for his harvest; to be on our way; to carry nothing extra like money bag, sack, sandals; we are to remain focused on our task; we are also ordered to say to each visited household: “Peace to this household”; we are told to stay in that household; not to move around unless necessary and so on.
Why? Why is the Lord giving us so many and so precise, detailed orders? And why all this excitement and urgency?
Simply put, it is because the Lord wants us to be “messengers of his love.” It is because he wants to make sure that every single human being on the face of the earth, or as close to that totality as possible, is notified that “the Kingdom of God is at hand for you.”
The term “Kingdom of God” refers to the most comforting piece of news ever to reach this earth: seeing our sorry human condition, 2000 plus years ago, our God decided to come among us in human forms. The Kingdom of God is the ultimate Good News; it is Jesus, the Son of God who shares every single humble aspect of being human and sacrifices his body on a cross to set us on the only way to Life, the only way for us to benefit from the prosperity that the Lord spreads over Jerusalem (Church) like a river. (Isaiah 66:12) And let us not forget that the Good News we are to spread as messengers of God’s love has little or nothing to do with the prosperity promised by preachers at megachurches in exchange for substantial donations. The prosperity envisioned and promised by the Lord is achieved by living out the paschal mystery (passion, death, and resurrection) and it is encapsulated in Jesus’ order to us to greet every well-disposed household with ‘Peace to this household.’
The peace offered by God is, first, meant to result in harmony, cooperation, solidarity, shared efforts in the Holy Spirit to reestablish order in the heart of each one of us and then, in our households, our community, our nation—the whole world.
At this moment in time, it is agonizingly obvious that peace is found in few hearts and in too rare places of this world. Consequently, a lot of work must be done by the messengers of God’s love so that his brand of prosperity may be enjoyed by an ever-larger number of his children.
If we share in Jesus’ love for the whole world, we also appreciate his urgency bordering on recklessness. Those who are tormented by inner turmoil, those at the brink of despair, the cynics, those crushed by repeated defeats, those groping in thick darkness and many others need the Good News NOW regardless of the personal cost to us.
If we love the Lord much, we would not mind being sent like lambs among wolves. We would believe that our only protection comes from him; it is real, yet mostly invisible to earthly eyes. But those whose love for Jesus is still lukewarm might not be ready to be sent especially under those unrealistic conditions.
At any rate, all must admit that it is impossible for the Good News to be spread only by a small group of messengers of love (priests and bishops), who are the successors of the first Twelve, the first 12 messengers of love first assigned to this global task. An additional 72 must be added. You, the laity, (the successors of the original 72), are to join us members of the clergy in praying in earnest for vocations, intentionally including your sons and grandsons, and to be directly involved in helping us priests and bishops to let everyone in your neighborhood, place of work, community and anywhere else you happen to be, know that the Kingdom of God is at hand for them.
I realize that a few considerations are needed before you can be sold to the idea of carrying out these tall, pressing orders from the Lord. We, men of the cloth, cannot be too effective messengers of God’s love since we are easy targets of criticism, our mistakes are justly magnified, and our messages often dismissed as part of our job.
But you can be much more effective messengers of God’s love by the way you lead your life; by what is of value to you; by the choices that you make; by the way you rear your children; by the way you handle misfortunes and hardships; by your patient endurance in bearing your cross.
In conclusion, I would say that all of us, clergy and laity alike, should contemplate Jesus crucified to charge ourselves up with genuine love and intense gratitude for such an incredible display of affection before we carry out Jesus’ order of going out on our … nearly impossible mission. Our level of love for Jesus must be substantial and penetrating to the point of making us from “slightly foolish” to “quite foolish” to be willing to do for him what we would not otherwise do…
Only people who are madly in love with their Lord would dare to confront the numerous wolves out there that can harm them in many ways, including depriving them of their livelihood and “cancelling” them. We must be madly in love with Jesus because he also expects us to believe that the effectiveness of our mission depends not on conventional means such as “money bag, sack and sandals” but on our faith in his closeness, our trust in his love and our reliance on his power.
One final thought: the Lord doesn’t want isolated witnessing. We assemble our Eucharistic Celebrations to live out true fellowship. We need to pick a mission companion: it could be our spouse, a sibling, a friend, anybody, really, provided that they are truly in love with Jesus so that our greeting of peace may be welcomed by many, and God may spread his prosperity over all to whom we are sent.