In preparation for this Sunday’s Liturgy, the fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, take some time to integrate this week’s Gospel reading (Luke 10:1-12, 17-20) into your life with this lectio divina meditation about the Mission and Return of the Seventy-two.
Follow this four step lectio divina process, taken from Pope Benedict XVI’s Verbum Domini, in your meditation on the Gospel.
LECTIO (Reading): What does this passage say that everyone should understand?
The Mission of the Seventy-two
Jesus sends out a large group of his disciples to prepare for his arrival in various places. Having set out for Jerusalem on his final journey, time is of the essence. He sent out seventy-two disciples in groups of two.
We should think of these seventy-two disciples today as missionaries. They go before Jesus to prepare his way. For some of us, this doesn’t fit with how we understand evangelical missionaries. These men (and women?) did not intend to convince people of an idea, they prepared the way for a person. The same is true of missionaries today. They prepare the way for an encounter with a person, Jesus Christ. They inspire faith in a person, not an idea.
What is the significance of the number 72? It is likely that the number 70 or 72 referred to the number of Gentile (non-Jew) nations at the time of Jesus. Therefore, the significance of Jesus sending this number of disciples is referring to the future spread of Christianity throughout all nations, not just Israel.
Jesus had specific instructions for these seventy-two disciples. Essentially, he warned them of the challenges they will face (lamb among wolves) and reminded them to rely on God.
Specifically, he said:
- Bring nothing with you
- Enter houses, greet with peace (not just a greeting, but actually initiates peace into the house!)
- Eat food that is given to you
- Stay in one place
- Cure the sick
- Proclaim the Kingdom of God
- If you are rejected, proclaim in the street: the Kingdom of God is at hand, shake dust from your feet (a sign to distinguish themselves from the people to which they were sent)
The Return of the Seventy-Two
After these warnings from Jesus, you would think they would return dejected and discouraged. On the contrary, they return rejoicing with genuine surprise for the spiritual gifts they were given. The joy and surprise in their ability to drive out demons, however, is quickly recognized as a sign of pride. Jesus warns them to rejoice not in their own power, but in the fact that their names are written in heaven, presumably set to be united with God in heaven both now and after death.
MEDITATION (Meditation): What does the text say to me, today, and to my life?
For today’s lectio divina meditation on the mission of the seventy-two, reflect on the following:
- Where is Christ sending you ahead of him? Are there people or groups to which you are being sent to prepare for Jesus’ coming into their lives?
- Do you ever feel like a lamb among wolves? When and in what situations has you experienced this recently?
- Who is your partner? Just as Jesus sent out his disciples in groups of two, he sends us out with a partner to help us. Who is your partner? Your spouse? A friend? A family member? Why do you think God put this person in your life? When have they been your strength in times of weakness?
- Jesus asked the seventy-two to leave their money bags and sandals at home. Think of your own life as Jesus’ disciple. What are you afraid to leave behind?
- Jesus tells his disciples that, as his laborers, they deserver their payment. In this case, the food that is given to them. Do you feel unworthy of payment for your service to others? Why and how should you feel instead?
- As a disciple, Jesus will give you great power. Sometimes, as in the case of the seventy-two, this power will be revealed. Jesus advises them not to rejoice in the power they have been given but in the identity they have in heaven. Do you rejoice only in your gifts and talents, or do you also rejoice in God’s loving presence in you?
ORATIO (Prayer): What can I say to the Lord in response to his word?
Consider the following suggestions for your conversation with the Lord:
- Put yourself in the shoes of one of the seventy-two. Where is Jesus sending you today? With whom is he sending you? What would you like to take with you that he asks you to leave behind? Share with him how you feel about all this. Imagine you are having a conversation with him about your life right now.
- Have you been rejected by anyone for believing in God? Why was this so hard for you? If you can’t think of anyone who has rejected or questioned you for your faith in God, ask Jesus if there is anyone who needs to hear a message from you today.
- Today it is unlikely that we rejoice in a gift of power over demons, but God gives us many other gifts to be proud of. What gifts do you rejoice in today? Share them with Jesus. Thank him. Then, imagine him telling you what is really important: your name is written in heaven.
CONTEMPLATIO (Contemplation): What conversion of the mind, heart, and life is the Lord asking of me?
Reflect on the following questions, recognizing the need to be changed by God’s grace:
Jesus called and sent his seventy-two disciples to prepare for his coming into various communities. You are one of Christ’s 72 today. To whom is he sending you? What must you leave behind to trust in God? What are you afraid of? Imagine you are given the strength to live out this mission and visualize it as a reality.
(photo credit: psd)