14TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (Cycle C)

Sunday's readings:
Isaiah 66:10-14c
Psalm 66:1-7, 16, 20
Galatians 6:14-18
Luke 10:1-12, 17-20 or 10:1-9
Abbreviations: NJB (New Jerusalem Bible), IBHE (Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English), IBGE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English), or LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation). CCC designates a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word LORD or GOD rendered in all capital letters is, in the Hebrew text, God's Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh).

God's divine plan for mankind is revealed in the two Testaments and that is why we read and relive the events of salvation history contained in the Old and New Testaments in the Church's Liturgy. The Catechism teaches that the Liturgy reveals the unfolding mystery of God's plan as we read the Old Testament in light of the New and the New Testament in light of the Old (CCC 1094-1095).

The Theme of the Readings: The Blessings of Salvation for God's Servants through Christ and His Church
In today's First Reading, the 8th century BC Prophet Isaiah promises a new creation and a new world order in a poem about the exaltation of Zion (the people of God) built around the metaphor of motherhood. This promised re-birth and God's motherly care of His covenant people will come to fulfillment in the Kingdom of the Church—the mother of those who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It is through Mother Church that all her children can receive the regenerating spiritual re-birth through the power of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Christian baptism. It will be a time when Mother Zion/the Church is filled with the LORD's servant-children who possess His power and continue to carry out the Christ's works on earth.

Today's Responsorial Psalm is a psalm of thanksgiving that was sung in the liturgy of worship in the Jerusalem Temple. Not only, sings the psalmist, has God done great things for the covenant people as a whole, but He has done great things for us individually and for which we should be grateful.

In the Second Reading, St. Paul writes that Jesus' crucifixion has freed him from the influence of the world, having died to sin to be resurrected to new life in Christ. Paul assures the Christian communities of Galatia that, for the believer who is united to Christ, there is no longer any external law dictating outward rituals like circumcision that does not have the power to give salvation. Paul says it is foolishness to boast about circumcision—the only boasting should concern one's submission in taking up the Cross of Jesus in renouncing the world and becoming a "new creation" through Christian baptism.

In the Gospel Reading, Jesus sends His disciples on their first mission. They are to go ahead of Him, visiting towns in Judea as Jesus' envoys and giving testimony of His coming. The disciples of Jesus Christ then and now are the servants of God who labor in the world to spread the Gospel of salvation. They serve Christ in bringing about the conversion of souls, setting those who receive Him on the path to Heaven, and by announcing the "coming of Jesus Christ" in His promised return in glory. In addition, every Christian is called to continue Jesus' earthly ministry of justice, peace, love, and the hope of eternal salvation.

The Kingdom of God is built on justice, peace and love, but we are unlikely to experience the perfection of those ideals in service to the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. The paradox is that the sinless Bride of Christ (the Church) is full of sinners. It isn't that the Church has failed, but there are faithful as well as failed servants within the Church who are engaged in the constant struggle against sin. However, we can be reconciled to the fact that the struggle to obtain justice, peace and love on earth is not a lost cause. The day will come when Christ returns to claim His Bride. At that time the good and faithful servants will be rewarded and all that was promised will be completed in perfect justice, peace and love in Christ's eternal kingdom.

The First Reading Isaiah 66:10-14 ~ God's Motherly Care of His Children
10 Thus says the LORD: Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her, all you who love her; exult, exult with her, all you who were mourning over her! 11 Oh, that you may suck fully of the milk of her comfort, that you may nurse with delight at her abundant breasts! 12 For thus says the LORD: Lo, I will spread prosperity over Jerusalem like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing torrent. 13 As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms, and fondled in her lap; as a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort. 14 When you see this, your heart shall rejoice and your bodies flourish like the grass; the LORD's power shall be known to his servants.

The 8th century BC prophet Isaiah warned the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah that God's divine judgment for their apostasy would result in the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple and exile from the land of Israel (Is 64:9-11; 65:1-7). He also promised the people that the day would come when the righteous would be restored to the land of their fathers (Is 65:8-16). When the people returned in the late 6th century BC, their condition was far from perfect. They faced many hardships and struggles, and the people continued to live under pagan dominance: the Persians, followed by the Greeks, and then the Romans. But the renewed world the prophet speaks of in 65:17-66:14 is not that 6th century BC promised restoration but something greater-it is the promise of the new world order and a new Creation. The passage of our reading is a part of a poem about the exaltation of Zion (the people of God) built around the metaphor of motherhood (see Is 66:7-14).

"Jerusalem" and "Zion" become symbols of the Church in the New Covenant Kingdom and her holy people. Prior to this passage (in verses 7-9 that are not part of our reading) there are a series of rhetorical questions about the eschatological city that gives birth to an entire people in a miraculous way. "Zion" (a symbol of the Church) like a loving mother, spiritually nurtures her children. The absence of labor in "Zion's" childbearing is a symbol of the joyful birth of the new people of God. She is the "new Eve," the mother of all living (Gen 2:23) who gives birth painlessly because her sin has been taken away-symbolism that also points to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the "new Eve" who gave birth to Jesus (Rev 12:5; CCC 489, 494, 505). Our passage is from the end of the poem (verses 10-14) that is an analogy of God, as mother Zion, comforting her children. The promise of this future birth and motherly care will come to fulfillment in the regenerating spiritual birth in Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit in Christian baptism. It will be a time when Mother Zion/the Church is filled with the LORD's servant-children who possess His power and carry out His works (verse 14). However, this passage may also contain references to the "new Jerusalem" of the united Church (of heaven and earth) that comes down from heaven at the end of the Age of Man after Christ's return (see Rev 21:1-4).

Responsorial Psalm 66:1-7, 16, 20 ~ A Corporate Prayer of Thanks to God
The response is: Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
1 Shout joyfully to God, all the earth, 2 sing praise to the glory of his name; proclaim his glorious praise. 3 Say to God, "How tremendous are your deeds! 4 Let all on earth worship and sing praise to you, sing praise to your name!" 5 Come and see the works of God, the tremendous deeds among the children of Adam. 6 He has changed the sea into dry land; through the river they passed on foot; therefore let us rejoice in him. 7 He rules by his might forever.
16 Here now, all you who fear God, while I declare what he has done for me.
20 Blessed be God who refused me not my prayer or his kindness!

This is a psalm of thanksgiving to be sung in the liturgy of worship in the Jerusalem Temple. God is praised for His wondrous deeds on behalf of His people, including the parting of the Red Sea so the children of Israel could cross on dry ground in their exodus out of Egypt (Ex 14:21-22) and the similar miracle forty years later in the parting of the Jordan River so the poeple could pass over into Canaan to begin their conquest of the Promised Land (Josh 3:14-17). Not only, sings the psalmist, has God done great things for the people, but the psalmist reminds us He has done great things for us indivudually: 16 Here now, all you who fear God, while I declare what he has done for me... and 20 Blessed be God who refused me not my prayer or his kindness!

The Second Reading Galatians 6:14-18 ~ The New Creation in Christ
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither does circumcision mean anything, nor does uncircumcision, but only a new creation. Peace and mercy be to all who follow this rule and to the Israel of God. From now on, let no one make troubles for me; for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.
This passage is from the conclusion of St. Paul's letter to the churches in the Roman province of Galatia and is written not by his secretary but is a postscript in his own hand (Gal 6:11). Paul announces that the "world," meaning secular pagan culture, has no hold or influence on him since Jesus' crucifixion has freed him from the influence of the world, having died to sin to be resurrected to new life in Christ. Whether or not Gentile Christians should become Jews first and submit to Jewish rituals like circumcision was an issue in the Church. Some Jewish Christians were accusing Gentile Christians of not being "saved" because they had not submitted to circumcision (Acts 15:1). But Paul argues that for the believer who in united to Christ, there is no longer any external law dictating his outward behavior like circumcision. So irritated was Paul by this suggestion that Gentile Christians are not saved through baptism if uncircumcised that earlier in the letter he says he wishes they would go to far as to castrate themselves in their foolishness (Gal 5:12)! Paul says it is foolishness to boast about circumcision-the only boasting should concern one's submission in taking up the Cross of Jesus in renouncing the world and becoming a "new creation" through Christian baptism.

The Gospel Luke 10:1-12, 17-20 or 10:1-9
Luke 10:1-12 ~ The mission of the seventy/seventy-two disciples
1 After this the Lord appointed seventy[-two] others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. 2 He said to them, "The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. 3 Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. 4 Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way. 5 Into whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this household.' 6 If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his payment. Do not move about from one house to another. 8 Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, 9 cure the sick in it and say to them, 'The kingdom of God is at hand for you.' 10 Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say, 11 'The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.' Yet know this: the kingdom of God is at hand. 12 I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town.

Luke 10:1 After this the Lord appointed seventy[-two] others... The chapter begins with the literal phrase "after these things;" it is a transition statement Luke uses frequently to show movement to a new focus or new event (see Lk 5:27; 12:4; 17:8; 18:4; Acts 7:7; 13:20; 15:16; 18:1). Some ancient manuscripts read "70" and others "72." There is biblical precedence for the number 70:

  1. There were 70 elders in the hierarchy of the Old Covenant Church (Ex 24:1, 9; Num 11:16, 24).
  2. There were 70 male members of the family of Jacob who immigrated into Egypt (Gen 46:8-27; Ex 1:5; Dt 10:22).
  3. The traditional number of the Gentile nations named in the Table of Nations in Genesis chapter 10 in the Jewish Masoretic text is 70, but in the Septuagint translation there are 72 (Green, page 412).

The number of 70/72 disciples sent to prepare the way for Christ and His Kingdom may be the linked to the 70/72 kingdoms/nations listed as the descendants of Noah in Genesis chapter 10. The list of the 70/72 nations in Genesis chapter 10 is theologically important in that it stresses the unity of the human family. It is a unity that will become theologically important again in the New Covenant in the future evangelization of the Gentile nations when all men and women of all nations are called into the united family of Christ and His Church. There will be 120 disciples gathered in the Upper Room in prayer after the Ascension (Acts 1:15), and at Pentecost Jews from across the Roman world heard the Gospel preached in the many dialects of the Gentile nations in which they lived (Acts 2:5-6).

Luke 10:1b ... whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit.
Jesus sent His disciples ahead of Him (literally "before His face") in 35/36 pairs. Their mission is to visit towns as Jesus' envoys and give testimony of His coming. Perhaps they were sent in pairs not only for emotional support, but in accordance with the Law that required the testimony of 2 or 3 witnesses in judicial cases (see Dt 19:15). There may be support for the judicial aspect in verses 10-11 and the warning (literally "testimony") in the earlier "sending out" in 9:5. The practice of sending out disciples in twos will be repeated; for example by Peter and John (Acts 8:14), Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:1), and by Paul and Silas (Acts 15:32).

Luke 10:2 He said to them, "The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.
God is the Master of the harvest that is the ingathering of souls into the Kingdom of heaven. The disciples of Jesus Christ are the laborers who spread the Gospel of salvation, helping to bring about the conversion of souls that are ready for entrance into the heavenly Kingdom. The work of Jesus and His disciples are under the providence of God who is creating a new phase of salvation history, the response to which will be judged (see verse 12). In the Old Testament the "harvest" is a symbol of God's eschatological judgment (see for example see Isaiah 27:12-13 and Joel 4:1-3, 12-13). In this passage "harvest" is a symbolic reference for the time when the preaching of the Gospel of salvation has produced the mature fruit of repentance and salvation. There is also a sense of urgency. In the harvest of grain or fruit there is only a certain amount of time to collect the harvest of the mature crop. In this sense, the time is then ripe for the great numbers of people that are ready to accept the Gospel message and be gathered into God's heavenly storehouse before the Last Judgment. Jesus' disciples are the laborers in the field that is the world but the "reapers/harvesters" in Scripture are said to be the angels (Mt 13:39, 41; Mk 13:27).

Luke 10:3 Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.
The image of Jesus' disciples now shifts from laborers to lambs and the contrast between lambs (disciples) and wolves (those hostile to their message) is a warning of the danger of their mission.

Luke 10:4 Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals ... and greet no one along the way.
The instructions on what to take on their missionary journey and how to conduct themselves in the towns they visit are similar to the instructions given to the twelve Apostles in Luke 9:1-6. They are to rely completely on God to meet their needs. In 10:4 they are told not to wear sandals. This is not the first time that God's holy agents were told to remove their sandals. In Exodus 3:5 and Joshua 5:15 both Moses and Joshua were told to remove the sandals from the feet when they were standing on holy ground in the presence of the Divine.

Since the Temple was also considered "holy ground" the priests and Levites when serving within the sacred precincts of the Temple were forbidden to wear sandals (Mishnah: Tamid, 1:1Q-1:2J; 5:3). It is possible that this command suggests, with the coming of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, His Church will have authority over all earthly kingdoms (Dan 2:44; 7:27) and all the earth is to be considered God's holy ground.

and greet no one along the way. This is probably a warning not to become distracted but to remain focused on the mission as well as the necessity of the haste of their mission to bring in the "harvest."

Luke 10:5 Into whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this household.' "Peace to this household" is more than the common greeting. The greeting of the disciples carries a blessing that announces the peace of fellowship with God that Jesus' Gospel message brings to the entire family who receives Him through His disciples.

Luke 10:6 If a peaceful person [literally son of peace] lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. A "son/daughter of peace" is a person open to the Gospel message. In the Hebrew of the Old Testament, the word salom (peace) is from the root slm meaning "completeness," "wholeness" in the sense of the "comprehensive bounty of God's salvific presence and activity" (Fitzmter, 848). But, Jesus tells them, if their message is rejected, the blessing will return to them to dispense to a receptive heart.

Luke 10:7 Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his payment. Do not move about from one house to another.
These instructions are meant to avoid the problem of jealousy with townspeople competing to give them hospitality. Jesus' statement that "the laborer deserves his payment" means that they are to freely accept what is offered without feeling obligated to offer payment. Service for the Lord is also their labor on behalf of the people.

Luke 10:8-11a Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, 9 cure the sick in it and say to them, 'The kingdom of God is at hand for you.' 10 Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say, 11 'The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.' The mission of the disciples is to be public and not private. If they are not welcomed, they are to shake the dust of the town off their feet as though the people were "unclean" Gentiles. It was the practice to shake the dust of Gentile lands off one's feet before crossing over into the holy land of God.

Luke 10:11b-12 Yet know this: the kingdom of God is at hand. 12 I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town. Whether they are well received or rejected they are to keep the focus of their mission on the fact that the Kingdom of God is coming. Then in verse 12 Jesus declares a warning for those that reject the disciple's message, which as His emissaries is His message.

Notice Jesus' the reference to "Sodom." See Gen chapter 19; Is 13:9; Jer 49:8; Lam 4:6; Amos 4:11; Jude 7; Rev 11:8 and 2 Thes 1:5-10. Sodom was a town located in the plain near the Dead Sea that was destroyed in an act of God's divine judgment. In the Bible the fate of Sodom became a symbol for God's divine judgment. In the climax of salvation history, the judgment on the townspeople who rejected the coming Kingdom and Jesus' work of salvation, will be worse that those who perished by fire in God's judgment of Sodom (as described in 2 Thes 1:5-10).

Luke 10:17-20 ~ The return of the seventy [-two] disciples
17 The seventy [-two] returned rejoicing, and said, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name." 18 Jesus said, "I have observed Satan fall like lightening from the sky. 19 Behold, I have given you the power 'to tread upon serpents' and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven."

The success of the mission is reflected in the disciples' joy. The disciples say they have been successful because they have ministered in Jesus' "name." It is through the authentic use of Jesus' name that they worked the same kinds of miracles Jesus works.

Luke 10:18 Jesus said, "I have observed Satan fall like lightening from the sky. In this passage
St. Luke uses the name "Satan" for the first time in the Gospel of Luke. Previously in Luke's Gospel Jesus had referred to this entity as the "devil" ("accuser" in Hebrew; see Lk 4:2-13 and 8:12). Satan, from the Hebrew satan, meaning "adversary," is the specific name for the fallen angel who is humanity's arch enemy (see Rev 12:9). He is called both the "prince of devils" and the "prince of this world" ( Mt 9:34; 12:34; Mk 3:12; Jn 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Previously Luke has referred to this entity as the "devil" ("accuser" in Hebrew; see Lk 4:2-13 and 8:12).
Satan's mission, since His success in bring sin into the world, is to challenge the faithfulness of God's servants and to continue to lead men into sin. He also stands in the heavenly court as mankind's accuser (see Gen chapter 3; Rev 12:9; Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7 and Zec 3:1-2). It is unclear what Jesus means in verse 18. Perhaps the disciples' success in the spread of the Gospel has weakened Satan's power and His ability to stand in the heavenly court; hence his fall from the sky.

Luke 10:19-20 Behold, I have given you the power 'to tread upon serpents' and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven."
Verse 19 recalls God's promise of protection in Psalms 91:1-16. Verses 9-16 promise: You have the LORD for your refuge; you have made the Most High your stronghold. No evil shall befall you, no affliction come near your tent. For God commands the angels to guard you in your ways. With their hands they shall support you, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You shall tread upon the aps and the viper, trample the lion and the dragon. Revelation 12:9 identifies the "dragon" as Satan, the great enemy of man. It is this enemy and his forces from which Jesus has protected the disciples on their mission (verse 19). However, despite their powers over the material and spiritual world, according to Jesus their power over demons should not be the cause for their rejoicing. They should rejoice because their names are written in God's Book of Life-the book in which the names of the redeemed are listed in the heavenly Sanctuary (see Ex 32:33; Ps 69:28-29; Dan 12:1; Phil 4:3; Rev 3:5; 20:11-12; 21:27).

Catechism References:
Isaiah 66:10-14 (CCC 239, 370)
Galatians 6:14-18 (CCC 1214)
Luke 10:1-12 (CCC 765, 2611, 2122)
Luke 10:17-20 (CCC 787)

Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2013