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"Peace be with you ..."

Entrance Antiphon: Ps 48(47):10-11 — “Your merciful love, O God, we have received in the midst of Your temple. Your praise, O God, like Your name, reaches the ends of the earth; Your right hand is filled with saving justice.”

First Reading: Is 66:10-14c — “Behold, I will spread prosperity over her like a river.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20 — “Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.”

Second Reading: Gal 6:14-18 — “I bear the marks of Jesus on my body.”

Alleluia: Col 3:15a, 16a — “Alleluia, alleluia. Let the peace of Christ control your hearts; let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. Alleluia, alleluia.”

Gospel: Lk 10:1-12, 17-20 — “Your peace will rest on that person.”

Communion Antiphon: Ps 34(33):9 — “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed the man who seeks refuge in Him.”

Let me begin with a question. As you and your families prepare to celebrate the weekend and the holiday ... with cookouts and parades and fireworks ... Do they have a fourth of July in England? The answer to that is of course they do. But I bring that up for a reason. An American traveler, my father, was visiting England, staying in Canterbury, the home of a great medieval cathedral and the cradle of English Christianity. After talking with him after his trip, I remember that it did not take long for Dad to note one very important difference between the Fourth of July in England and in the United States. Things were a lot quieter in England. There were no fireworks or parades or bands and speeches. Then I remember him telling us that late in the afternoon, after an English summer shower, my Dad remembered a beautiful rainbow quietly and eloquently filled the sky over the English countryside. As I reminisced and contemplated, the priest son put the following spin on the Fourth of July in England ... God celebrated the day, just as readily as you or I do. Consider that as you celebrate this weekend or hear the "Star Spangled Banner" or “God Bless America” being sung.

And so let me continue by saying that Divine logic often seems counterintuitive. What farmer would risk the lives of ninety-nine sheep to find one that is lost? What parent would reward with a celebration the child who left home, squandered his money, and brought shame on the family? What’s the problem with having a walking stick, for heaven’s sake, or a change of clothes, or sandals when you go out to preach? And why no greetings along the way? Doesn’t the church have enough Public Relations problems already without adding lack of hospitality to the list? Why ask the master of the harvest for workers when He already knows we and He are shorthanded? And will it really be more tolerable for Sodom than for the town that took down the “Welcome Disciples” sign?

When trying to wrap your heads around all of that, I believe that God through the Word tells us three (3) things this weekend that are certain in order to be effective missionary disciples … in order to carry out the mandate we each received at our Baptism … so that we are effective messengers of peace in the world: We have to have peace within ourselves … we must be willing to share that peace with others … and the other person has to be willing to receive it from us. Looking at it another way, peace is the highest value for all people in the world. Without peace, nothing is possible.

Every time we come to Mass, we expect or perhaps it would be better to say that we should expect to receive a blessing from the Lord. If we took nothing else away with us but peace, our time would still be well spent. And having made that statement, each one of us must be prepared to give back something of what we have received. The end of Mass is not like the end of a football game or movie where we simply get up and leave. At the end of the Mass, we are often sent out with the Priest saying: “The Mass is ended, go in peace, glorifying the Lord with your life …” Perhaps we should be thinking … “Go and give peace to others” … that means giving peace to your family … to your wife, your husband, your children … to your neighbors and to people at your workplace … and to those you meet who are strangers to you. We are sent out as ambassadors of peace.

Today’s Gospel begins immediately after the final verse in last Sunday’s Gospel. After strong language about the difficulties of discipleship, Jesus immediately appoints 72 people to go ahead of Him to every town and place He plans to visit, proclaiming that the kingdom of God is at hand. He sends them in pairs. Why? Well, in the law of Moses, two witnesses were needed for a testimony to be credible. It was probably also a safer way to travel.

In sending the 72 forth, Jesus admits it will be difficult for His disciples since He is sending them out like lambs among wolves. They are to bring nothing with them, not even a money bag or sandals. They are not to greet anyone along the way so as not to distract from their mission. Can we consider what it means to be hospitable in Jesus’ terms? When they enter a house, their message is simply “peace.” How can we bring peace to others? How can we practice the love that Jesus says we must show each other? Peace implies openness … friendship … tolerance … goodwill … and hospitality. It disposes us to reach out to others. It helps to break down barriers between one another.

Second, the disciples are to announce that the kingdom of God is at hand. The responses they receive may be positive or negative. Can we set our sights on the heavenly Jerusalem by beginning the kingdom of God on earth through our relationships with others? They are not to demand special treatment but eat and drink whatever is given them. They are to heal the sick as a sign that the Kingdom of God is at hand for them. In a town that will not receive them, they are to shake the dust from their feet and move on. Even in the case of rejection, they are still to believe that God’s kingdom is at hand.

Once again, the theme for today’s Gospel is discipleship. The challenges, difficulties, and rewards of their mission have been successful. Now-a-days, everybody is talking about peace: politicians, writers, and heads of different organizations. The word “peace” is on the lips of all people who wish well to our world, our families, and our communities. The disciples return from their journey rejoicing. Demons were under their power because of Jesus’ name. Jesus may have sent them out as lambs among wolves, but at the conclusion of this passage, Jesus assures them that they have been given power over the enemy and nothing will harm them, not even serpents and scorpions.

Sharing in the mission of Jesus is difficult, but by virtue of our Baptism we are all called to do it, not just as professionals trained for ministry … but all of us, no matter our state in life. Even for us today, the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. The harvest is great, and there are many opportunities for sharing peace and for making peace. We may not always succeed because it takes at least two to make peace … both the giver and the receiver. We have to accept that our peace will not always be accepted. It may come back to us like the echo of our own voice. But at least we need to try. In a world torn apart by competition, anger, and hatred, we have a challenging vocation … to be living signs of love that can bridge divisions and heal wounds … to bring peace. It would do us well to ponder that this week as we try to live the life of Jesus and follow His way.

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