It's been like 20 months now since we changed the words we say at Mass, and most of us have grown accustomed to saying, "and with your spirit" instead of ‘and also with you’. This is a perfect example of how the words we say at Mass match exactly to scripture.
Let’s look now at that Gospel – look at that first line: “At that time the Lord appointed seventy-two others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs”. Now, if you're paying attention, you gotta wonder...Who were these “others”? I had always figured these were the elite of Jesus’ followers… the apostles… but there were only 12 of them – so who were the 72? They were disciples. They were part of the crowd… they were ordinary people who had decided that living for Jesus was the most important thing they could do. There’s no proof – but there’s a good chance that Luke, the gospel writer, was one of these 72, because he was the only one who specifically mentioned the 72. Luke was a doctor...
Luke and all these other people gave up their normal jobs to travel to other towns to prepare the way for Jesus…. To tell people about Jesus…
Who are the 72 today? Hopefully that’s obvious – they’re not the apostles – so they’re not the Bishops. They’re not the priests or deacons. They are the farmers and doctors and students and housewives and accountants and house builders and stone workers… in short – WE are the 72. Would you give up your livelihood to live for Jesus?
Just like then, Jesus gives us our marching orders… “the harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few”. At the end of every Mass, WE are sent forth just like that. In fact, you’ve heard it before, but the name of the Mass comes from the Latin “ite missa est” – which was the last thing said in the old Latin Mass – and it means – “it is sent”. “it” refers to the congregation… the people of God have come together to get our marching orders to be sent ahead of Jesus. THAT is our purpose for gathering.
THIS is what is means to be a Christian. We have been sent out to work the harvest... and that means making disciples for Christ. But Mike, this reading is from 2000 years ago... before the world knew about Jesus.... surely WE aren't supposed to be evangelizing....Wrong. If we AREN'T doing that, we are not fulfilling our mission. Who are WE supposed to tell about Jesus? “the harvest is abundant”…. Really! Let that sink in... the harvest IS abundant. People NEED and WANT To hear the good news. The world NEEDS our Christian example to keep it from falling completely into anarchy and immorality. I’m blown away by how people act with total disregard for others...the way they act makes it obvious they don’t know Jesus. Many people...right here in our area, need to SEE what it means to be Christian. This area used to be overwhelmingly Christian and most of that was Catholic. Now… people have walked away for one reason or another. Many people have never had a personal experience of Jesus – and it is OUR job to bring it to them. You know, some so-called churches, although their theology is way off-base, they take this command from Jesus so serious that if you go six months without bringing somebody into the church, you are considered ‘lapsed’!
Pope Benedict spoke often of the “new evangelization”. Throughout the history of the Church, it was a given that our role as disciples was to go out to the world to tell them about Christ – and to provide Catholic education for our Children. Today… too many people don’t really know Christ. Those of us who DO know him have to share that experience with others. Not me and Fr. Eugene… but each person sitting here. YOU are the ones with the personal relationships which allow you to influence the people in your life.
How? Good question. First, by sharing our joy and our hope. Imagine if we didn't have God to turn to when tragedies hit our life. Where would our hope come from... That is huge. Just by us SHOWING our faith in small ways, we are changing the world around us. Even small things like praying before meals at a restaurant, we impact people around us. Often when you do that, people will step up to you and thank you for doing it! It's not an “in your face” sorta thing... It is just doing what we always do... Giving thanks to God before enjoying the blessings he gave us. What is normal to you? You may have seen Duck Dynasty on TV.... Part of what makes it such a good show is that every show ends with them sitting down to a meal... And EVERY meal starts with a blessing. Prayer! Right there on prime-time, nationwide TV! It is my hope that this will help prayer to become normal to more people. What is normal to you? I know growing up, my mom and dad would sit on the couch every night praying the liturgy of the hours together... And than... Dad would go kneel by the bed to say his personal prayers. My prayer life ain't as good as theirs, but because of their example, THAT seems normal to me. I wonder... what is NORMAL to OUR kids? What example have we set?
Notice too that Jesus sent them out two by two. We were not meant to do this alone. In fact, if we try to do it alone, we will fail. An isolated Christian is a dead Christian. We need like-minded Christians to encourage us, to bolster us when we hit a rough patch, and to hold us accountable when we stray from the way.
It reminds me of a flock of geese...Surely you’ve noticed they always fly as a group – almost NEVER flying alone. There are some great lessons that WE can learn from them… lessons that Jesus already knew about when he sent us all out in pairs. First – geese fly in a V formation – because by flying right behind another bird, the flock can fly up to 70% farther than they could if they flew alone. Something about the flap of the wings of the bird in front creates a updraft so the birds behind take less energy to fly. If one bird falls out of formation, he quickly feels the drag of the air and moves to get back into formation as quick as possible.
For us as Christians – we are sent out as a group – not alone. We’re not MEANT to do it alone,… we need a small group.... we help each other make it farther and easier by creating momentum. It’s much easier for one of us to pray at our meal at McDonald’s if several of us do it together. It’s much easier for us to say ‘no’ to the crowd if several of us say ‘no’ together. It’s easier for us to give up our personal free time to study scripture, if we have likeminded friends to discuss it with and who challenge us to take an extra step.
Also – in the flock – the birds encourage each other – honking to the bird up front to encourage them on and let them know we’re still here. As one bird gets tired from leading, they drop back and another bird takes the lead for a while – thereby sharing the load of the toughest job. As Christians, we all are leaders at some point. Maybe it’s in our family – or in our circle of friends. Maybe it’s just how we act when we’re in public… but OUR actions make it easier for others to live their Christian lives as well. Our joy and hope rub off on people. People should LIKE to be around us, because...well… We're not like everybody else.
Finally – the flock follows one leader – headed unswervingly in one direction. They have a goal – to make it south – or north, depending on the time of year. Likewise as Christians, we received our marching order from Jesus in the Gospel today – go out and make disciples!!! That is our primary goal! If we’re not doing that, we’re headed in the wrong direction.
There’s a bunch more we can learn from geese – but let this be enough for today: next time you see a flock of geese overhead, just imagine that each honk is saying . “and with your spirit"