FIRST READING Isaiah 66:10-14c
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! Oh, that you may suck fully of the milk of her comfort, that you may nurse with delight at her abundant breasts! 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. 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. 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.
SECOND READING Galatians 6:14-18
Brothers and sisters: 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.
GOSPEL Luke 10:1-12, 17-20
At that time the Lord appointed seventy-two others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. 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. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way. Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’ If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. 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. Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’ Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say, ‘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. I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town. The seventy-two returned rejoicing, and said, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name. Jesus said, “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky. 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. Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.
My sisters and brothers in the Lord,
A feeling of God’s comfort materializes in beautifully artistic ways at times. It is a singular pleasure to enjoy the Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra’s yearly performance of George Frideric Handel’s Messiah. The ensemble, full orchestra and 100 plus voice choir, performs the music with such passion and precision it is difficult to determine a favorite piece from the musical offering. However, the tenor vocalist who sings ‘Comfort ye, my people’ attains such sublime heights musically. The audience is indeed comforted. He reminds the listeners that God wants to comfort us.
In the scriptures proceeding and after today’s passage, the Prophet Isaiah laments about the harshness of living in exile, of returning to the Promised Land and of having to struggle to be faithful even though the people have returned to the promised land. Most of what Isaiah says is about hardship, but in this passage we find intense joy, as in this image of God as a mother who nurtures her children. The author turns from the hardships which the people are living to point out that God really does care. What better symbol than that of a not-yet-weened child held in the warm embrace of his mother: warmth, security, and a food source all in one!
The Letter to the Galatians and tells us to rejoice in the Cross, to rejoice in the suffering that we must endure in order to follow the Lord. Where is the comfort in that?! We can see how clearly this is a Christian interpretation of the same reality that their Jewish ancestors had suffered in exile. The challenge is for each one of us (when we suffer or are reviled or ridiculed) to identify with Christ. There is the comfort! As we seek Jesus, we slowly, even reluctantly, embrace the sufferings offered up to Him as a means to achieve greater union with Him, salvation.
The Gospel of Luke today tells about the sending of the disciples. It is clear that Jesus expected His followers to experience the comfort of welcome and also rejection. The disciples may well not be received with love and openness. We sometimes fixate on those who reject the disciples, “The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.” Perhaps because this is often the case for those sent out into the world to proclaim Jesus. But, don’t forget the comfort of the priest, parish, monastery, convent, or community. God comforts us through his people. They, too, are His loving instruments of peace and grace.
God does and will comfort his people. Therefore, proclaim Jesus in the way we live and in the way we deal with adversity, suffering and rejection. It is not easy to walk the way of the Lord, but it brings an incredible awareness of God’s love and God’s maternal care for us. May we also be a comfort to one another, especially the marginalized, the poor, and the sick. We are sent by Jesus. Let us live in Jesus!