(Begin by reading the Gospel. Sometimes it is good to have someone read it to you. The Word is meant to be heard.)
In the Gospel last week, we heard about vocation. What Jesus does = who he is. Who he is = what he does. We heard him compare the work of the Kingdom to ploughing a field. It requires focus. Jesus seems to have farming on his brain. In the Gospel for this Sunday, he speaks of harvesting. We will have to think about the work of the Kingdom of God as bringing in the harvest.
At the beginning of the reading, Jesus sends out a large number of disciples.
The Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go.
Jesus makes it clear that the work of the Kingdom is not meant to be done alone. He sends the disciples out two-by-two, each with a buddy. Walking together, they have company. Walking together, they keep each other focused on what is important, on what they are good at.
Jesus tells them,
“The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.
The harvest comes when the crops have ripened. If they are not harvested, they rot in the fields and orchards. Wheat that could be made into bread, never feeds the hungry. Grapes that could be made into wine, never celebrate joy. Jesus says the harvest is plentiful. There is much to be gathered. Someone has to go out into the harvest. Who will feed the hungry? Who will celebrate joy? Who will go?
Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road.
Jesus makes it clear. The work of the Kingdom is not without danger. They are to stick together. They are to carry nothing that could be stolen. They are not to talk to strangers. He understands the risks.
“Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you.
Wherever they go, they offer peace. The Holy Spirit works in disciples of the Lord, and a fruit of this work is peace. The world is hungry for peace. They are to offer peace into every house—wherever they go.
Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the labourer deserves to be paid.
This is an interesting instruction. The disciples may enter homes where people follow different customs. The disciples are used to eating and drinking only certain things according to Jewish law. Jesus allows them to eat and drink whatever they are given; they are not to turn down an offering from a person of peace. Peace must spread back and forth between people so that the world becomes thick with it.
“Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’
But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’
The choice is theirs. Accept peace or reject it. Either way, the disciples bring the Kingdom of God near by the work that they do. When who they are = what they do, when what they do = who they are—when they live their vocation—the Kingdom of God comes near.
The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!”
They have done the work of the Kingdom; they have lived their vocation. The Holy Spirit has worked through them, they return with joy!
They are overwhelmed with what they have been able to accomplish—greater than they could have imagined.
“I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you.
“Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Always, always, the disciples must remember whose work they do.
Always, always, they must remember who works through them.
They cast out demons because they share the peace of Christ.
They are admired and respected because they do the work of the Lord.
They are filled with joy because they have opened themselves to the Holy Spirit.
They answered the call to go out into the harvest.
Jesus says, "Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest." The world is hungry. The world needs joy. We would go.
We ask the Lord of the harvest to send out us.
We keep each other focused on what is important, on what we are good at. Each of us has a different vocation, but when who we are = what we do and what we do = who we are, we know whose work we do.
We accomplish more than we could have imagined.
We celebrate in joy.