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Numbers are sometimes very important when reading sacred scripture. For example, Jesus selected 12 apostles to represent the 12 tribes of Israel. In today’s reading from the Gospel of Luke Jesus sends out 72 disciples to prepare in advance for his visit to various cities. Some biblical scholars suggest that the number 72 represents an outreach to the world, since at the time there were 72 known nations.
In any case, although the mission of Jesus started among the people of Israel, it would eventually reach out to embrace every place and people. In the Great Commission to the Church before Jesus ascended into Heaven he said, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Let me suggest that the 72 disciples sent on mission to prepare for the Lord’s coming can represent all of us. Aren’t we all sent on mission to be witnesses of Jesus and to prepare others to receive him into their hearts and lives?
In his Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel (Evagelii gaudium), Pope Francis writes, “In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples (cf. Mt 28:19). All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization, and it would be insufficient to envisage a plan of evangelization to be carried out by professionals while the rest of the faithful would simply be passive recipients. The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love. Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus. . . (W)e are always ‘missionary disciples’. If we are not convinced, let us look at those first disciples, who, immediately after encountering the gaze of Jesus, went forth to proclaim him joyfully: ‘We have found the Messiah!’ (Jn 1:41). The Samaritan woman became a missionary immediately after speaking with Jesus and many Samaritans come to believe in him ‘because of the woman’s testimony’ (Jn 4:39). So too, Saint Paul, after his encounter with Jesus Christ, ‘immediately proclaimed Jesus’ (Acts 9:20; cf. 22:6-21). So what are we waiting for?”
Today’s Gospel passage is a reminder to all of us. Jesus wants us to go out and proclaim his message of mercy, love, and salvation. At the end of the Mass, we often hear these words, “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.” That is, in fact, the mission that has been given to all of us who have encountered the Lord Jesus.
Have a blessed week everyone.