After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road.
Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’
But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
Oh, the excitement of ‘appointment day’, the day in mid-August when every Sister received a sealed envelope containing a holy card on which was typed her assignment for the coming year. Gathering in chapel and starting with prayer, we opened our envelopes and, always, a hush followed mingled with quiet sobs, soft sighs, and an occasional giggle. That was it!! Then you were off to serve wherever God, or the superior, wanted you to be.
“Lambs in the midst of wolves”? If you served in El Salvador during that country’s 20- year civil war, you knew what that meant. “Eat and drink what is placed before you”? If you worked in poor American parishes and visited neighborhood homes you knew what that meant. “Take no walking stick or carrying bag”? If you traveled to your assignment with the rest of your new community, packing everyone’s belongings in a tired old station wagon for one trip only, you knew what that meant.
Put into today’s framework, however, I think of this gospel with a less literal interpretation. I wonder if the ‘carrying bag’ Jesus warns of is the clinging to obstinate opinion regarding our faith or the vestiges of tradition over depth of understanding. I wonder if ‘going without sandals’ means a willingness to walk in someone else’s footsteps as we try to understand our differences.
This gospel demands a simplicity of thought and action to meet people where they are in seeking the Lord and not exclusively from our prepared agenda or catechesis. I am inspired by the Jesuit who personified this so credibly as he moved among the sweaty crush of humanity riding the bus to work every day, and loving these people just as they were. He is Pope today!
—Sr. Mary Ann Flannery, S.C. is Executive Director of Jesuit Retreat House, Cleveland OH.
Lord, we ask for your wisdom to know when we must move on and “wipe the dust” from our feet. Free us from getting stuck in disappointment and anger when others refuse to hear your call to love, forgive, and serve. We need you to soften our hearts so we can still pray for the other even after experiencing rejection. Bless our motives and bring our work to fruition in your name.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team