Today, on the Fourteenth Sunday of the Year, the scriptures proclaimed make it clear that God is always calling us to rejoice in his actions on our behalf, to identify with Christ, and to witness to the Lord’s presence in our midst.
In the First Reading, Isaiah exhorts the people to rejoice in the way God has restored them from exile. The prophet reminds us that God’s nearness transforms everything. Even when all we see seems to be in ruin, Isaiah’s words encourage us to know the hope and joy of God’s active presence in our lives.
Saint Paul focuses on the new creation brought about by Christ’s death and resurrection and boasts “in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The closing words of his letter to the Galatians show how prayerful and practical such an attitude can be. Paul’s identification with Christ was so complete that he believed Christ was living in and through him. Paul believed that everything else was insignificant in comparison with the effects of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
In the Gospel passage from Luke, Jesus uses the image of the abundant harvest to emphasize the need for laborers and the importance of praying for vocations (“more laborers for the master’s harvest”). Luke is the only evangelist who tells us not just about the sending out of the twelve but also about the sending out of the seventy-two. Twelve are not enough, and the appointment of the larger number lets us know that all followers of Jesus who read Luke’s Gospel are called to mission to proclaim the Lord’s peace and the presence of God’s Kingdom throughout the world. Jesus goes on to counsel his disciples returning from their mission of announcing the in-breaking of God’s kingdom and the peace that it brings. They are to rejoice not that their efforts were successful but that their names “are written in heaven.”
On the eve of our nation’s celebration of Independence Day, we choose to celebrate not so much our independence but our dependence on the Lord who calls us to share in his mission. We choose to receive and engage the mission from the one who sends us not for the purpose of gaining power or status, but for the joy that comes from participating in Jesus’ mission of life. Our Lord is calling us the joy of living not only right now but also in the fullness of the new creation in life-eternal for ourselves and for those who receive the fruits of our mission labors. This weekend, we may very well “pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,” but, more importantly, like Saint Paul, we recommit ourselves to follow the standard of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Today, we pray that God, who has “called us from many peoples to be one nation,” will grant us the grace and courage to share our blessings with all the peoples of the earth [cf. Collect for Independence Day]. May our Lord also bless us with more laborers for the harvest and give those called the grace and conviction to hear and respond.
By: Fr. Stephen Salocks