THEME: THE JOURNEY TO NEW JERUSALEM
READINGS: Isaiah 66:10-14/ Galatians 6:14-18/ Luke 10:1-12,17-20
14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In today’s first reading the Jews who had returned from exile in Babylon were assured of a future glorious Jerusalem, in which they would experience comfort, joy and prosperity (cf. Isa. 66:10-14). Similarly, according to the Gospel of St. Luke, our Lord Jesus Christ was on His way to Jerusalem (cf. Luke 9:51) when He sent out seventy disciples ahead into various towns and places (cf. Luke 10:1-2). We could, therefore, see the Christian life as a journey to the New Jerusalem.
Unlike the Jews from exile, the destination of our journey is not a physical city or place. It is rather the heavenly or New Jerusalem (cf. Rev. 21:2). Thus, while the seventy disciples were rejoicing in the fact that they overpowered demons in the towns they had visited, Jesus told them: “do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).
CHALLENGES ON THE WAY
There are many challenges on our way to the New Jerusalem. Today’s gospel reading calls our attention to a few of them. Firstly, as Jesus cautioned His disciples, we journey as lambs among wolves (cf. Luke 10:3). That is, as lambs in the open fields are harassed, attacked and sometimes killed by wolves, so we may face hostilities, or even fatalities (martyrdom). These may be in the form of religious persecutions, discriminations, loss of jobs, loss of relatives, failures, sicknesses, danger of death, etc.
Secondly, as Jesus cautioned His disciples that they might face rejection in some places (cf. Luke 10:10), so we may be rejected, sometimes because of our faith in Him.
Thirdly, sometimes our challenge may be of a more spiritual nature, as the Lord’s disciples battled with demons, though victoriously (cf. Luke 10:17).
STAYING ON COURSE
In the face of such challenges, how do we stay on course to the New Jerusalem? First and foremost, we should always keep in mind and heart that we can reach our destination only through the cross of Jesus. It is the only vehicle that transports us to the New Jerusalem. Thus, St. Paul had his priority right: “May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14).
Secondly, by instructing His disciples to “carry no purse [and] no bag” (Luke 10:4), Jesus draws our attention to the importance of faith in God’s grace or providence. Grace is the fuel of our spiritual vehicle, and only God supplies it.
Thirdly, our Lord instructed the disciples to carry no sandals (cf. Luke 10:4). Here, let us recall that in the burning bush episode, Moses was told to remove his sandals, as the ground on which he stood was holy (cf. Exodus 3:1-5). Sandals, by their usage in the dusty terrain of ancient Israel, collected dust, which signifies uncleanness or sin. We are, therefore, to keep ourselves pure by the grace of God as we journey on.
Fourthly, we can stay on course if we proclaim the good news by word and deed (cf. Luke 10:9). Furthermore, as we heard last Sunday, we should treat the task of proclamation with utmost urgency. So, like a doctor responding to an urgent sick call, the disciples were to “greet no one on the road” (Luke 10:4).
Fifthly, by empowering His disciples to heal the sick (cf. Luke 10:9), Jesus teaches us to assist the needy whenever it is within our means.
Lastly, as we know more often than not, challenges are better handled when there are mutual support and collaboration. This is a lesson we can learn from the fact that Jesus sent out His disciples two by two (cf. Luke 10:1).
Beloved in Christ, the challenges of life notwithstanding, let us by God’s grace, stay on board the vehicle of the triumphant cross of Jesus, while we remain unstained by the dust of sin, share the good news with those yet to come on board, help those in need and mutually collaborate, so that we can arrive safely in the New Jerusalem. Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis