Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time • Year C

J. Thomas Pohto, O.S.A.
Church of Our Mother of Good Counsel Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania

Is 66:10-14c
Ps 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20
Gal 6:14-18
Lk 10:1-12, 17-20 or Lk 10:1-9

The kingdom of God is at hand.

Many years ago I taught algebra to high school juniors. One day after class, one of the students came up to me and said: Hey, Father, remember when you said [and he quoted something I said, but which I no longer remember]. I told him I didn’t remember saying that and I thought to myself that I hoped I had said it, because it sounded really good. And he said that it really changed his life (for the better). He thanked me for saying it. I was surprised that I could say something so life-changing in an algebra class!

In the Gospel Jesus sent disciples ahead of him to the towns he planned to visit. They were to bring peace, cure the sick and announce that the kingdom of God is at hand. And we hear that they had power over demons, serpents and scorpions did not harm them, and the enemy was unable to have power over them. We would say that supernatural powers were at work in them, and they recognized that something way beyond the ordinary was happening to them.

The thing is that part of our definition as Christians is to be evangelizers: to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and the salvation he has won for us. The first question that comes to my mind is: How am I supposed to do this? But the Gospel makes it pretty clear that this is not the right question. What the 72 disciples did was allow God’s power to work through them.

Human beings cannot make “Satan fall like lighting from the sky.” But with divine power they did it! Treading upon serpents and scorpions with no harm is again God’s power working in them. Changing someone’s life through words in algebra class is beyond the normal scope of algebra teachers, but God’s power can do it!

So the question for me and all of us becomes: How do I allow God to work through me to touch the hearts of others? The excuses people use for not doing anything are: I don’t know what to say; I’m shy; I don’t know much theology; I’m not smart enough; and so on. But all these excuses are irrelevant. Let’s look at the other readings.

The first reading which is from the Prophet Isaiah, comes from the last chapter of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, and it describes the New Jerusalem, the world that is to come. The whole theme is one of joy. Listen to the words used: rejoice, be glad, exult, comfort, delight, prosperity. These are the things that allow God’s power to flow through us to other people. When such gifts as these are present in us, God’s message can flow through us and change the lives of others. Even in an algebra class.

In the second reading, St. Paul says his boast is “in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…” And he says: “I bear the marks of Jesus on my body.” The cross is the sign reminding us of God’s great love for us and the marks of Jesus on our body are a reminder to us of the wear and tear we bear to help and love one another. And the love we share with one another is a sharing of God’s love and a sure message (from us and from God) that will be received by someone else.

Now what does this have to do with me? As Christ’s disciples we are all baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ. According to the baptismal ritual we are made into the likeness of Christ as priest, prophet and king. The prophet is someone who speaks to others on behalf of God. So we have the power to receive God’s message and to pass it on to others. Sometimes this is done in a very straight-forward way, like telling someone something. Other times we may not realize the tremendous power of our words or actions on behalf of God. The love and joy of the kingdom that is part of us allows God’s word to us to touch others. Often we don’t realize how effective our evangelizing is, but we may later. Often one of the signs that God is working in us is an increase in joy, often a surprise.

Today we pray that we will allow God to use us to make known God’s kingdom to others. To do this we ask God to help us share God’s love we have received with others. And we desire that the joy of God’s kingdom will fill us and the whole world.

The kingdom of God is at hand.