Today is the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Today’s reflection comes from Father Albert Lakra, pastor of St Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church at John Day, Oregon USA. Fr. Lakra reflects on the themes of peace contained in this week’s readings. I encourage you to read the full homily here, but below are key items for reflection:
Theme of Peace
One word that occurs and is repeated in all the three readings of today is “peace.” Isaiah, in the First Reading, speaks of God sending ‘flowing peace, like a river.’ Paul, in the Second Reading, speaks of the peace and mercy that come to all who become that transformed person in Jesus Christ. And, in the Gospel, Jesus sends his disciples as lambs in the midst of wolves, and tells them to proclaim peace and to bring peace with them to every house they enter. This peace is not merely the absence of war or maintaining a balance of power between adversaries. This peace is not dependent on outside circumstances. It can exist even when we are surrounded by storms. It is the tranquility of order, it is the effect of justice and it is the effect of charity. And we all are called today to be peace-bearers.
First Reading: River of Peace
In the First Reading of today, the Prophet Isaiah announces that the Messianic era will be characterized by its abundance of divine gift – it will be ‘like a torrent of peace, like an overflowing stream.’ It is to be an era that will gather together everything that is good – joy, happiness, consolation and the prosperity promised by God when Jerusalem was restored after the Babylonian exile. Here, the prophet sees the blessing in store for his people. They will know the joy of being God’s special people.
The holy city is like their mother. This is the image used in today’s reading to tell the Israelite people how happy they will be when Jerusalem is restored. She knows how much they have suffered in exile. Now she will comfort and nourish them. It states, “That you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breasts; that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious bosom.”
Here, we are left with images of tenderness and cherishing and are given glimpses of a new way of seeing God. God is a God of might and power who delivers His people from exile and slavery – God as Father who will protect and defend His children. But God also protects and nurtures and, today, Isaiah offers us images of the Motherhood of God – “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” Isaiah refers in these words to the Messiah, the bearer of that peace which is, at one and the same time, grace & eternal salvation for each individual and for the whole people of God. The new Jerusalem is an image of the Church and each one of us.
Gospel: Disciples on a Mission
We are told that Jesus appointed seventy disciples and sent them on ahead of him two by two to every town and place where he himself intended to go. The number ‘seventy’ here, has a symbolic reference. It refers to the seventy nations descended from Noah described in the Book of Genesis, to the number of the elders chosen by Moses with the task of leading and directing people in the wilderness, to the number of the Sanhedrin – the supreme council of the Jews. Moreover, seventy was also the number of the nations in the world considered at the time. Doesn’t it speak of the universal character of Jesus’ mission? Jesus sends all his disciples out in every direction to proclaim his Good News.
Secondly, Jesus sends out his disciples ‘two by two’ – in pairs, not as isolated individuals, but with a companion to share the journey with all its joys and sorrows. The number two also adds to the witness value which required the testimony of two people. Moreover, the sending out in twos mirrors the fact that God has sent His Son and His Spirit to reveal himself to us. A preaching community is a powerful sign not only through its words or works but also through the way that the members of the community relate to each other, through divinely-inspired love. In a sense, love is the proper language of mission for it is the language of God. When we live in the world as members of the body of Christ we are cemented together by the Spirit of love.