A key theme of this and last Sunday’s Gospel is discipleship—its challenges, its difficulties, and its rewards. Sharing in the mission of Jesus is difficult, but everyone is called to do it, not just some professionals trained for ministry. Even for us today, the harvest is plentiful. We should pray to the master of the harvest to send out workers for his harvest.
In this particular Gospel passage, Luke quotes Jesus promoting some of our special Benedictine values. Sometimes amessage is so important that it must be told over and over again, repeated so that people will really hear it, so that they will allow the message to take root inside them and bear fruit through what they do. Jesus reminds His newly appointed missionaries: “Do not be afraid.”
Jesus repeats this message time and again. It is a message those around him need to hear. It is a message all of us need to hear. Do not be afraid! This knocks the cobwebs from the dark corners of our lives.
Do not be afraid, he tells the anxious, worried father whose child lies deathly sick. Only believe, and your daughter will get well; she’ll be restored to you.
Jesus repeats this message –– because it’s important, and because we find it hard to accept. He’s aware that fear comes easy to us, as easy as breathing.
Today Jesus repeats this message. Do not be afraid! He repeats it as he sends out seventy–two of his disciples to prepare the way in every place he will visit.
These seventy-two –– we are not given their names. They are not prominent, like John or Peter or Andrew. They are quiet, unassertive, ordinary folks. These seventy-two –– we do know their number. A number that stands for wholeness and completion. These seventy-two represent all and each of us.
I suspect not all 72 of the appointees would have success stories to report. Some might have turned out like the one about these two missionaries who were going door to door. They knocked on the door of one woman who was not happy to see them. She told them in no uncertain terms that she did not want to hear their message and slammed the door in their faces. To her surprise, however, the door did not close and, in fact, almost magically bounced back open. She tried again, really putting her back into it and slammed the door again with the same amazing results-the door bounced back open. Convinced that one of the missionaries was sticking their foot in the door, she reared back to give it a third slam. She felt this would really teach them a lesson. But before she could act, one of them stopped her and politely said, “Ma’am, before you do that again, you really should move your cat.”
Have you tried to slam the door on God’s invitation? What is the “cat” that keeps the door open? Look after that cat – you’ve been abusing it – it needs your tender care.