Last weekend, our readings helped to see what it means to be a disciple of the Lord. This week, we move on to understand that being a disciple also means being a disciple-maker. Just as Jesus sent out the 72 disciples as co-workers in his mission and ministry, so too this task continues in the Church today. 

In the First Reading (Isaiah 66: 10-14), we hear an upbeat and joy-filled poem. The chosen people have returned from their long Exile in Babylon and so they celebrate all the wonderful blessings that God has given and will give. In this poem, we are also given some of the most beautiful images in the Bible of God’s love and care for His people: like a nursling carried in its mother’s arms, or as a mother comforts her child. In like manner, the psalm (Psalm 66) sings of all the marvelous things that God has done for His people. For this reason, all the earth should cry out with joy to the Lord. 

Over the last few weeks, we have been hearing from the Letter of St. Paul to the Galatians as our Second Reading. The Letter focuses on how following Christ gives us the new and final law or rule. This week we end this cycle and so our reading (Galatians 6: 14-18) is something of a summary. We see how being true to the name “Christian” means to be like Christ in every way, but especially in the cross. St. Paul ends the letter with a rather enigmatic greeting: “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters.” A number of commentators note that this may be where we find the root of the dialogue at Mass: “and with your spirit.” 

Our Gospel (Luke 10: 1-12, 17-20) is one of those pivotal moments. We often think of the work of the apostles and disciples only beginning after Jesus’ resurrection, or even Pentecost. However, we see in our Sunday Gospel how Jesus sends out the disciples even during his own public ministry. On a side note, it is good to hear the whole Gospel passage rather than the optional shorter form for this week. In the longer form, we hear how the disciples come back rejoicing. This picks up the theme of the other readings where there is so much joy in all the wonderful things that God has done. 

Notice how our Lord gives the disciples very precise instructions. After all, they are not going out as lone-ranger missionaries! They have been appointed by Jesus and they are going in the name of the Lord to prepare for his coming. We can note that the number “72” is highly symbolic in the Bible. It can denote a number of things, not least a sense of inclusion. We might say that 72 stands for everyone. In other words, we too are called to continue the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ and to be instruments that help in preparing people to receive the Lord. As St. Teresa of Avila wrote: “yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body.” 

We can think of how many disciples have followed the call of the 72 over the centuries. We have many local saints who have done this, such as the North American Martyrs, St. Kateri Tekakwitha or St. Marianne Cope. They said “yes” to our Lord and then went on to be his missionaries and messengers. They did this, not in some other part of the world, but right here in upstate New York. What is more, as we celebrate the 4th of July weekend and the freedoms that we enjoy, perhaps we can also recall the freedom that we have to be our Lord’s disciples.

This may involve a cost such as being rejected (as Jesus mentions in the Gospel) and we know that freedom certainly is not free. The words of St. John Paul II on a visit to the USA seem to be so appropriate: “This is my prayer for you, that you will be builders of a civilization of love, of a society which precisely because it embodies the value of truth, justice and freedom for all, is also a sign of the presence of God and of his peace.”