Fourteenth sunday in ordinary time
Our first reading celebrates Israel’s return home from exile. In the second reading, Paul shares with us how he bears the marks of Christ on his body. In the Gospel, Jesus commissions the 72 disciples to go forth and share the Good News he has come to bring. A spirit of joy pervades all three readings.
FIRST READING: Isaiah 66:10-14
This reading is a part of a larger poem which announces the return of the Israelites from exile. It proclaims the end of a time of suffering and the beginning of a new era of peace for Jerusalem and her inhabitants: “Rejoice with Jerusalem!” Isaiah uses the image of motherhood to characterize the relationship that will exist between Jerusalem and her people as well as the loving care that this relationship will provide. Like a nurturing mother, Jerusalem will give of herself, feeding her inhabitants from the fullness of her body. The very city for which they had previously mourned will now comfort her children.
Then the author uses the image of motherhood to speak about God’s tender care for all who live in Jerusalem. Some of us today who are accustomed to only thinking of God in male images may find the motherly image of God surprising if not shocking.
SECOND READING: Galatians 6:14-18
This reading contains the closing verses of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. Some of Paul’s audience, the Judaizers (who try to impose Jewish customs on Gentile Christians) boast of circumcision as a sign of their favor with God. For Paul, circumcision means nothing. What matters is the Cross of Christ and the new life it makes available to him. For Paul to boast of the Cross of Christ is amazing when we realize how crucifixion is regarded in his time. It is a degrading death reserved for slaves, violent criminals and political rebels. Who would want to boast of this kind of death? Paul also refers to how his commitment to Christ has led him to share in the sufferings of Christ. The “marks of Jesus” on his body is most likely a reference to the many beatings he received.
GOSPEL: Luke 10:1-2, 17-20
Jesus commissions 72 disciples in pairs to share the Good News to all who are ready to listen. (72 represented all the nations of the world; hence, their mission was to all people.) Before they depart, Jesus warns them that they will not be received warmly (“lambs among wolves”). He also tells them to travel lightly and to trust in him. The urgency of the mission is underlined by the words: “Greet no one on the way.” Jesus is telling them not to waste time with social niceties nor bother looking for suitable lodgings. Accept whatever is offered. If people open their hearts to you, accept their offer of hospitality. Cure the sick, cast out demons. If people close their hearts to you, do not waste time arguing with them. Move on to the next town. The Master is in charge.
The reading ends with the return of the 72 disciples and their stories of success. Jesus places their experiences in their true context. As impressive as the wondrous deeds they have witnessed, even more wondrous is the fact that their names have been inscribed in the heavenly book (Exodus 32:32).
How does the image of God as a mother appeal to you? Do feminine images of God disturb or help your relationship with God?