The Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – 3 July 2022
Lectionary Readings: Isa. 66:10-14; Ps. 66:1-7. 16. 20; Gal. 6:14-18; Lk. 10:1- 12. 17-20.
Theme: Seventy disciples sent to proclaim the Good News
Luke is the only Gospel to include two stories of Jesus sending his disciples to proclaim the good news. In common with Mark and Matthew he has an account (in Luke 9) of the sending of the Twelve, and he follows this in chapter 10 with the sending of seventy disciples. Some ancient manuscripts, and some modern English versions, give the number as seventy-two. The number most likely, comes from the list of the grandsons of Noah, or list of nations, in Genesis 10 – seventy in the Hebrew Bible, seventy-two in the Septuagint. The idea that there were these many nations is behind the statement in the Talmud that “Every act of speech that came forth from the mouth of the Almighty was divided into seventy languages” (b. Shabbat 9:4). The Lord’s message is meant for everyone.
Further possible background to the number seventy is found in Numbers 11:16-17, “So the Lord said to Moses, ‘Gather for me seventy of the elders of Israel…they shall bear the burden of the people along with you’ “. The sages argue about this in the Mishna and R. Judah explains, “‘With you’, as those who resemble you…that the seventy might be like Moses” (b. Sanhedrin 1.6). Jesus’ disciples on mission therefore are to be like Jesus, and to live and proclaim his message as he himself did.
The setting for this story is the road from Samaria to Jerusalem, towards which Jesus is travelling with a large following. He is under no illusions about the opposition his disciples will face when they proclaim his counter-cultural message, and he draws on the well-known dangers that flocks faced from wolves when grazing in the arid Judean countryside. In the Mishnah, R. Judah says, “In a time that wolves come in packs, even a single wolf is an unavoidable accident.” (b. Baba Mesi’a 7:9–10e). They will be as vulnerable as lambs, totally dependent on their shepherd for protection.
It is interesting that in this story Luke specifies that the disciples are not to wear sandals (Lk. 10:4) whereas he does not mention sandals in sending out the Twelve in the previous chapter (Lk. 9:3). However Mark, in telling what is presumably the original version of this story, commands the Twelve to wear sandals (Mk 6:9), with an echo here of the command in Exodus 12:11 to eat the paschal lamb wearing sandals, ready for a journey. The journey of Jesus’ disciples will be long and difficult and they need to be well prepared if they are going to persevere. In forbidding sandals, Luke is emphasizing the need to be totally dependent on the Lord. There is truth in both approaches.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. In what ways have you seen Jesus’ message being proclaimed by actions rather than by words? 2. How do you resolve the tension between trusting in your own abilities and resources and trusting completely in God?
Bibliography: Metzger, B.M. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (Stuttgart: 1994); Neusner, J. The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary (Peabody MA: 2011); Strack H.L. & Billerbeck P. A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud & Midrash Volume 2 (Bellingham WA: 2022).
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Kevin L McDonnell cfc, Australia, Bat Kol alumnus 2003, 2004, 2005