REMEMEBER YOUR WORDS TO YOUR SERVANTS, O LORD
(THURSDAY, OCTOBER 03 2019)
The Psalmist today has it the precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart and that the law of the Lord is perfect. writes the psalmist. Because of this, Ezra the scribe encouraged the people to celebrate when the law was proclaimed. Historical scholars remind us the text from Nehemiah belongs in the context of the post-exilic reconstruction of Israel. Our reading, then, is a celebration of the recovery of the people after a period of extended trial and near destruction.
For them, the law quite literally refreshes the soul. We should not forget, however, that the joy came only after a period of suffering.
But then the lectionary hurls us from this post-exilic context into the future ministry of Jesus. Here, we read of a less-than-joyful reception of Jesus law. The harvest is rich, but the workers are few. Jesus counsels His disciples on how to cope with frequent rejection and the doubt that comes with it. It must have been difficult to go out and do this ministry, even two by two, but we are encouraged by the promise of ultimate success and peace.
The gospel has it that Jesus appointed seventy-two others and sent them out in pairs...”. Where it is said concretely that He sent them ahead of Him, it is the same resolute Jesus who is journeying to Jerusalem. The recommendations that He addresses to them before sending them are an invitation to be aware of the reality to which they are sent: abundant harvest in contrast to the few labourers. The Lord of the harvest arrives with all His force but the joy of that arrival is hindered by the reduced number of labourers. Therefore, the categorical invitation to prayer: “Ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to do His harvesting”.
The initiative of sending out on a mission is the competence of the Father but Jesus transmits the order:” Start off now” and then He indicates the ways of following. He begins with the luggage: no purse, no sack nor sandals. These are elements that show the fragility of the one who is sent and his dependence on the help that they receive from the Lord and from the people of the city. The positive prescriptions are synthesized first in arriving at a house and then in the success in the city. In both cases, the refusal is not excluded.
The house is the first place where the missionaries have the first exchanges, the first relationships, valuing the human gestures of eating and drinking and of resting as simple and ordinary mediations to communicate the Gospel. “Peace” is the gift that precedes their mission, that is to say, the fullness of life and of relationships; the true and real joy of the arrival of the Kingdom. It is not necessary to seek comfort and it is indispensable to be welcomed. Instead, the city becomes, the most extensive field of the mission. It is there that life, political activity, the possibility of conversion, acceptance, and rejection are developed.
This last aspect is linked to the gesture of shaking off the dust. It is as if the disciples, in abandoning the city that has rejected them, would say to the people that they possess nothing as an expression of the end of the relationship. Finally, Jesus recalls the guilt of that city which will close itself to the proclamation of the Gospel.
Jesus reminds us that to labour for God’s harvest is hard, but He also reminds us that if we are faithful and obedient, despite the difficulty, the end result will always return to us as peace. Such, I think, is the promise that comes to us today from Nehemiah and Luke.
Let Us Pray: Lord Jesus, Let your Word have root in me and may I not ge ashamed to proclaim it everywhere I go. Amen.