A. The Bible as Guide in Life and Liturgy (Sunday Readings)
B. Reflection & Dialogue: Need of true vision to sustain Christian life

A. The Bible as Guide in Life and Liturgy (Sunday Readings)

First Reading (Isaiah 66:10-14).

Towards her I send flowing peace, like a river. This reading is taken from the concluding chapter and section of the book of Isaiah, in which God comforts and sustains the faith and hope of his people with a vision of a glorious future, culminating in a vision of new havens and a new earth. In this reading the Jewish people are personified by the holy city Jerusalem. They are invited to rejoice with her, as they once mourned her and their misery. Jerusalem is represented as mother of her people, of the Jewish people. Peace and the prosperity it stands for is represented as flowing to her in streams. She will be the glory of the nations, or possibly the riches of the nations (see Isaiah 61:6). The suffering people will be comforted by Mother Jerusalem, but really of course by their Lord God, here represented as a mother. The Lord God will see to their welfare; to his servants the Lord reveals his hand.

Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 65[66]). Cry out with joy to God all the earth.

Second Reading (Galatians 6:14-18).

The marks on my body are those of the Lord Jesus. This is the concluding chapter of Paul’s letter to the Galatians, a letter in which he had to combat the attempts of Jewish Christians to win over his converts to circumcision and the practise of the law of Moses as requirements for salvation. Paul stresses the central Christian truth that salvation is through the death (cross) of Christ and his resurrection. For this belief he had suffered persecution from various forces, which he can describe as “the world”, the world being human weakness and all the forces that oppose God’s plan of salvation through the cross and resurrection of Christ. In the verses immediately preceding today’s reading Paul severely criticizes the Jewish stress on circumcision of the flesh, and glory in it, in the flesh. Then Paul, in today’s reading, turns to the real cause for glory. It is in the cross, in which Christ dies and in which all the forces inimical to Christ (“the world”) are defeated. In this Paul’s view, circumcision, or its absence, is immaterial. What matters is the new creation in Christ, through the mystery of the cross and resurrection, all that Christianity stands for and on which Paul himself writes so eloquently in his letters. He ends his letter with a prayer, on “the Israel of God”, by which he probably means all the Jews who believe in Christ and all converted from paganism, all these being the true people of God. The “marks of Jesus” on Paul’s body are probably the marks of the suffering he has endured in his ministry, signs of his union with the crucified Christ.

The Gospel (Luke 10:1-12, 17-20).

Your peace will rest on that person. We should not forget that this reading forms part of Jesus’ journey from Caesarea Philippi and Galilee to Jerusalem, to his death, his “being taken up to heaven”, his exaltation mentioned in last Sunday’s Gospel reading. IT is a journey to his resurrection and his words to his apostles before his ascension to heaven that repentance and the forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. All of the first three Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, have an account of the commissioning of the Twelve apostles, of Jesus sending them out with power and authority to preach the good news and to heal this sick. Luke alone has the account of Jesus appointing seventy-two “others”, others than the Twelve that is, sent to act more or less in the same capacity as the Twelve were commissioned to do. The number seventy-two (in some manuscripts seventy) recalls the number of the gentile (non-Jewish) nations in biblical and Jewish tradition. This mission brings to mind the immensity of the task, and the lack of ministers of the word. The gap can only be filled by a divine call and vocation, indicating the need of prayer. The missioners of the Gospel must be prepared for the task before them, of the opposition they may meet, and of the need to have their mode of life in keeping with their exalted calling, in simple attire, wasting no time in conversations along their road. They are sent as lambs among wolves. Their message, and the Gospel message, is one of peace and reconciliation. They would be expected to receive free accommodation from families and towns that would receive them; as labourers they were entitled to their keep. But they were expected to be satisfied with what their hosts might have to offer, and not succumb to the temptation of moving the houses that might treat them better. They were to bring healing to those accepting them, and their message to all, who welcomed or did not welcome them, was to be that the kingdom of God was very near. It was very near in the message of peace, and in the healing work of the missionaries. This is the last time that Luke will mention the kingdom of God being near. Luke and his readers knew that it had come in keeping with the Father’s will in the death and resurrection of Jesus, in the sending of the Holy Spirit and the spread of the Gospel through the Church.
    The seventy-two (or seventy) report to Jesus on the success of the mission, and how the evil spirits were subject to them in Jesus’ name. When Jesus says that he has seen Satan fall from heaven, he is hardly speaking of a vision he had. The text rather says that the success of the missionaries over evil spirits indicates the fall of the power of Satan and the coming of the kingdom of God, a power that will continue with the messengers of the Gospel. Mention of the names of the elect being written in heaven is an expression found in biblical apocalyptic writings (the Book of Daniel and the Apocalypse of John).

B. Reflection & Dialogue: Need of true vision to sustain Christian life

A vision of a nation’s or individual’s past or future is a potent aid toward inspiration towards action. Empires of remote and less remote past have created past history for themselves, sometimes enshrining it in great literature, visions, even if imaginary, which inspired and justified imperial conquests. We may pass from civil and profane history to the Bible and the history of salvation, where the sustaining vision for the present and the future is belief in the living God. From today’s first reading we can see how the divine vision of a better, even glorious, future sustained Israel of old. It was God’s vision for them, and what was foreseen, or foretold, was far removed from their then present reality. Jesus preached that the kingdom of God was very near; at times Gospel texts say that he said it was present. It was future, very near and present all at once – present in the healing activity of Jesus and of the Apostles and others he had commissioned to preach the good new of the kingdom. Paul, too, preached the kingdom of God, the conquest of human weakness, but was aware that this work of salvation could not be a reality without union with the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection.
    Today we need to reawaken our vision of the kingdom of God, present and coming in the Church. Our vision of the Church must be that of the Bible, of Paul and the epistles to the Colossians and the Ephesians. The Church as a sacrament is what believers are called to be, and can become through union with the death and resurrection of Christ, as Paul insists on in today’s second reading. Today there are so many voices that would have us look on the Church in her weaknesses, in the scandals of some of her members. We should resist the temptation to so consider the Church. She is the universal sacrament of salvation. Through her God and Christ should be seen as addresses their saving message to the world of our day.

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