The church is always sending out. In imitation of Christ sending out the apostles and their collaborators, the church has always sent out people to spread its message. Some are sent out in a particular way with a ministry to a certain group and with professional training. All of us are sent out if only at the end of each Mass, to become more like the Christ we have heard and received and to minister to those whom only we can reach.
Christ chose twelve initially, in a symbolic act which reminded people of the special place in history of the twelve tribes of Israel and the special ‘chosen-ness’ of God’s own people. Now Christ prepares them for the message that God is a God of all people, of the pagan nations of whom there was thought to be seventy two. This was to be the start of the Christian missionary tradition and a clear message to those who would claim God exclusively for their own nation, tradition or people.
The advice that Jesus gives them is to travel light. The moral perhaps is that material goods enslave us and weigh us down. Don’t be greedy, he taught his followers. Accept generosity gracefully and thankfully.
The labourer deserves his wages, he taught them. Don’t cash in or be greedy was the moral message. Jesus was under no illusions as to the resistance and rejection they would meet. I am sending you out like lambs among wolves, he says, introducing a note of realism. Praise and blame are equally inevitable for the worker preaching the kingdom.
He told them to preach that the kingdom of God was very near to them, within them and among them waiting perhaps to be realised. He counselled them to cure the sick and to offer words of peace, a peace the world does not give, to the householders they might meet or to shake off the dust on their feet as a sign of judgement to those who would not welcome them.
He told them there would be much work and much harvest, but few who would choose to labour in the field with them, few with the generosity of heart to give themselves single-mindedly to kingdom. He told them not to rejoice in their privilege or power but in their inheritance. ‘Your names are written in heaven’ he assured them. That is the only real cause for rejoicing when all else has faded.
As we are sent out today, in whatever capacity, the values of the Gospel and the ways of the world remain unchanged. The kingdom is still to be built up and the harvest of eternal life awaits the faithful worker. Our job is still to ‘go in peace to love and serve the Lord’.