Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Blog # 455 The joy of salvation.

Blog # 458  The joy of salvation.

          Blog # 455 is an edited re-presentation of the text I wrote for the parish bulletin on the 4th of July, 2004, which happened also to be the fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time that year. I thought it was appropriate and helpful as we enter more deeply into the experience of Lent 2015..

         The first reading is Isaiah 66: 10-14. "Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her, all you who love her".  The Gospel tells of Jesus sending out disciples to prepare for His coming to preach His message of salvation. (Luke 10: 1-9).

           Throughout the world  Mother Teresa was acknowledged as a holy person. She had accomplished a great deal in her love for the poor and afflicted.  Yet if we study her life and the talks she gave on occasions of dedicating hospitals and places of refuge for the poor it becomes evident that in her own mind her holiness did not consist so much in what she had accomplished as in her personal relationship with God through Jesus.  It was in God's name and with God's power within her that she did what she did and said what she said.  And it has been that way with holy people down through the ages all the way back to the seventy-two disciples sent out two by two by Jesus in the Gospel reading..

             It is significant that in the middle reading ( Gal. 5:22) the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faith, mildness, and chastity rather then great accomplishments.  It is when and because we love that we do things for others, and because we are joyful that people listen and receive the message of  joy that we bring.

            In the text from Isaiah we are invited to celebrate and reflect upon the joy of the people who have been called back to Jerusalem from exile. "Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her you who love her..."  There was a road that led from the exile of  Babylon to the joy of living once more in the Holy City Jerusalem. Likewise there is a road  that leads back from sin to the joy of knowing and living once more 'at home' with our sins forgiven in God's love.

              The  Psalm Response continues the invitation of Isaiah: "Let all the earth cry out to God with joy!"  "Shout joyfully to God all the earth, sing praise to the glory of His name; proclaim His glorious praise.  Say to God, "How tremendous are Your deeds!".

                  The great joy and comfort extolled by Isaiah and the universality of the invitation of Psalm 36 lead very appropriately into the Gospel reading from Luke.  Jesus is sending 72 messengers ahead of Him to every town and place He intended to visit.  At the time Luke was writing it was thought among the rabbis there were 72 nations in the world.  This would mean Luke has Jesus sending His messengers to the whole world and His message of peace to all people. We have Psalm 36 revisited.

             The messengers are given specific instructions to help guarantee their mission would be focused  properly on the message rather  than on any special worldly advantage it would bring to themselves.  In reading the words of Luke describing the messengers as lambs among wolves, the prohibition to carry money, and the warning there would be opposition to the message they would bring, I hear the call for courage, trust, humility, generosity, and perseverance in the faith on the part of the messengers. These virtues are as important for anyone who would represent Jesus in
our world today as they were when He sent out the original 72.

            Finally, when the 72 return rejoicing over the effect their ministry had and the good they were accomplishing, Jesus rejoices along with them.  He reminds them, however, the more important thing for them was not what they had  accomplished but their identity in the Kingdom of God's love, that their names were written in Heaven.  The messengers' accomplishments, from the greatest to the least, are left behind when God calls them to the joy of their eternal home in Heaven. Their goodness
zeal courage faithfulness loyalty generosity and love go with them. This is what we hear Jesus saying to the original 72 and to anyone who would work for the spread of His Kingdom today.
           If what we do is the expression of who we are, and this seems to be what Jesus was telling the returning missioners, then we do rejoice in what we do, yes, but even more so in who we are.  Both elements of our identity are the will of God and cause of rejoicing..

            As with the original 72, each of us as a disciple of Jesus is sent into some definite corner of the world to proclaim the Good News of God's love for all  people. ( Luke 4: 18,19,21; Jn. 17: 18, 20, 21.  The physical area of our missionary field is limited by  many 'fences': our background, our age, our personalities, a lack of cooperation from those around us. etc.  We might be tempted to think there is not much that we can do.  But our zeal and love should be measured by the zeal and love of Jesus...everyone, everywhere.  We can respond to the request of Jesus and "ask the Master of the harvest to send laborers for His harvest".  We may not have the same results as the 72 but we are called to have the same faith and love that results in the same joy that was theirs.

              There are people living around us who, unaware of it themselves, perhaps, are  hungry and thirsty, waiting for the message of salvation.  We need to pray for the fruits of the Spirit ( Gal. 5: 22f). When we are equipped with these our hungry and thirsty family and neighbors will have food and drink available to them in the message we live and the joy we share with them.  Go!...

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