The Lord appointed a further seventy-two.
How did Jesus select his seventy-two missionary disciples? Probably the same way he selected his twelve apostles – a different approach in each case.
How has he chosen priests since then to send as “workers in the harvest”? Again, however great their numbers, always by a “custom-made” invitation. Sometimes He has called them in some startling way, either because they are already pretty much saints or pretty much sinners. But in most cases He arranges to drop into their hearts the seed of a hint. The seed grows, and suddenly the young man becomes aware of it. “I think I’ll give it a try!” he says.
Some of the best foreign-born missionaries to the U.S.A. in the last century were inspired to come here by published narratives of missionaries already in the field. Especially influential were the magazines of three great missionary organizations: the Society for the Propagation of the Faith (France), the Ludwig Mission Society (Bavaria) and the Leopoldine Society (Austria-Hungary). Father Frederick Baraga, Slovenian apostle to the Chippewa Indians, was fired with zeal for the U.S. missions by what he read in the Leopoldine magazine. So was the Bohemian, St. John Neumann. So, too, was the Croation, Father Joseph Kundek who pioneered the church in Indiana. When Kundek read the reports of American Missionaries, he declared “I can do the same as these missionaries!” And he did.
It was not at all the prospects of an easy life that attracted these apostolic men. It was the challenge of a hard life. One appeal for missionaries addressed to French candidates even said: “We offer you: no salary, no holidays, no pension, but much hard work, frequent sickness, an unknown grave.”
Yet, it was precisely this challenge by something bigger than themselves that attracted our top missionaries.
Today, vocations to the priesthood have dropped off alarmingly. Why? Maybe we haven’t been praying enough to the “Lord of the Harvest”. Maybe also we have tried to “sell” the priestly vocation too much as a “crown”, too little as a “cross”. Young people will still respond to challenges. As John Paul II said to the youth of Costa Rica, “I know you want noble ideals, even if the cost is large, and you do not want to lead grey lives.”
-Father Robert F. McNamara
Q587: It takes a lot of courage for a disciple to accept a task of going out “into the midst of wolves” but to continue acting like lambs (Luke 10). Does Jesus have some hidden meaning with this mandate?
My wife and I have been supporting the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers for over fifty years. We have always admired their commitment to serve in practical ways in foreign missions, proclaiming the gospel in both word and service. Today’s gospel speaks to this kind of missionary undertaking, showing how real missionaries are totally dependent on the Lord and his providence.
One of those Maryknoll missionaries (Fr. Wm. Grimm) penned an allegorical observation many years ago that has always remained with me. Basically he said we need to reflect seriously on our baptismal mandate as we try to live out our Christianity in this world of wolves. Are we converting wolves, or are we becoming just like them? Have we become wolves in sheep’s clothing? Here is a challenge that faces all of us: “Four-legged wolves do not learn from researchers who imitate wolves. Neither do two-legged wolves learn from lambs who imitate wolves. We must teach the world’s wolves a new way of living. We must teach respect for the weak and service to them. We must teach the wolves that lambs are not for devouring, but for showing us something about God.” Lest we forget, that was also the task of the Lamb of God.
Prophesying about messianic times, in Chapter 11 of his book the Prophet Isaiah says the “wolf will live with the lamb” – and the Jay Leno’s of the world will immediately suggest that the lamb will probably sleep with one eye open all the time. Jesus may seem in the eyes of the world to be giving very impractical advice. But look at the results, says Fr. Grimm; the disciples brought peace, defeated the powers of Satan, cast out demons, cured the sick, and brought people to Christ. That is what lambs do, in the kingdom of God! Become a lamb!
KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! The Lord Jesus endowed his community with a structure that will remain until the Kingdom is fully achieved. The Twelve and the other disciples share in Christ’s mission and his power, but also in everything that happens to him (CCC #765).
Peace and Joy
Isaiah described the joy and peace that exiled Israel would possess in the new Jerusalem of redemption and restoration. Early Christians experienced this peace and joy in the new life given them by Christ’s cross and resurrection. They rejoiced too in the spread of the gospel throughout the Roman world. The mission Jesus gave to the seventy was continued in the early church and not just by missionaries like Paul and Barnabas. Most of those early Christians –like us– were people who lived settled lives, held down jobs, and raised families. But like the Seventy they had learned to live trusting in God more than in the values of the world. They shared a sense of purpose that went beyond producing and consuming goods and having fun. They lived in ways that raised unsettling questions and thus they continued the mission of the Seventy. Do those who come into contact with us sense that we possess the peace and joy that comes from trust in and commitment to the Cross of Christ?
Lord, help us to live that kind of life, lead us in the way you want us to go and make all that we do at home or at work show in our lives the fullness of your message. May the peace of Christ rule in our hearts and give us joy on the way.