COLLABORATIVE MISSION OF RESTORATION
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [Isa 66:10-14; Ps 66:1-7, 16, 20; Gal 6:14-18; Luke 10:1-12.17-20
Jesus said to them, “The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.” Indeed, there are so many in the world who are harassed by the challenges of life. Many are wounded because of betrayal, physical, sexual and emotional abuse. There are those who are worried about their deteriorating health, financial situation, their children’s studies, the security of their jobs, etc. Then there are many who are confused about their sexual identity, personal relationships, purpose and meaning in life. Most of all, many are under the bondage of evil, sin and all forms of addiction to drugs, gambling, sex and pornography.
Indeed, the mission of the Church is not so much to proselytize, to make converts but to prepare the hearts of people to receive the Lord. Baptism is the consequence of believing in the gospel and in Jesus as the One who restores us to wholeness. Christianity is not an ideology but a concrete application of God’s love and mercy to people. Indeed, the 72 disciples were sent ahead “to all the towns and places he himself was to visit.” They were to prepare the people for His coming so that when He came, the people would be ready to receive His message and His love. This is what our work as the disciples of Jesus is all about. Our task is to prepare the hearts of our people and their minds to receive the Good News and most of all, to receive our Lord in person. How can this be done?
Firstly, the proclamation of the Kingdom of God entails the restoration of peace and hope to all. This was what the prophet Isaiah said to the people in exile. God would restore Jerusalem once again. The people would be renewed in His life and in His love. “Now towards her I send flowing peace, like a river, and like a stream in spate the glory of the nations. Like a son comforted by his mother will I comfort you. And by Jerusalem you will be comforted.” Jesus also told His disciples, “Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him.” This peace comes when they are reconciled with God, themselves and their fellowmen.
Secondly, the proclamation of the Kingdom is directed towards the restoration of our dignity as God’s children. St Paul also wrote, “It does not matter if a person is circumcised or not; what matters is for him to become an altogether new creature. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, who form the Israel of God.” So the kingdom message is directed at humanity so that they can live a new life, in love and peace and be freed from all fears, bondages and evil. The gospel seeks to give true freedom to every person not the slavery of the world. Hence, St Paul said, “The only thing I can boast about is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world. I want no more trouble from anybody after this; the marks on my body are those of Jesus.”
Thirdly, proclamation entails restoring wholeness to God’s people. “Cure those in it who are sick, and say, ‘The kingdom of God is very near to you.'” Healing of those who are emotionally, psychologically, spiritually and not just physically sick is part of the restoration of the human person to his or her dignity. The gospel is meant to set people free to love God and to love others. Sickness in many instances is due to our sinful way of life, because of anger, attachment, irresponsible living, greed, gluttony, laziness, ill-discipline and ambition. At times, it is due to our weak constitution which makes us fall sick and that can lead us to depression and despair, and then cause us to lose faith in God. In experiencing the love of our fellowmen, their care and their understanding, we experience God’s healing love; and by encountering God’s healing love through the sacrament of reconciliation, the sacrament of the sick and through the Eucharist, we too are liberated from our pain and despair.
In this way, people will know that our God is the mighty Lord and the living God who continues to be present in our lives. “At the sight your heart will rejoice, and your bones flourish like the grass. To his servants the Lord will reveal his hand.” This is what the psalmist says. “Cry out with joy to God all the earth, O sing to the glory of his name. Say to God: ‘How tremendous your deeds! ‘Before you all the earth shall bow; shall sing to you, sing to your name!’ Come and see the works of God, tremendous his deeds among men.”
How can we reveal the power of God’s healing love to those who are seeking Him? Precisely, we cannot do it on our own strength. Jesus told the disciples, “Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals.” We need to depend on the Lord to do His work in and through us. We are merely instruments of His love and peace. By not carrying anything, the Lord is inviting us to rely solely on His grace and the power of His love. In this way, no one can ever claim credit for the work of healing or transformation in the lives of those whom we touch. Otherwise, some of us become smug and think the credit goes to us even though we might pay lip service that it is the work of God. In our helplessness and inadequacy, counting on the power of the Lord and His assistance will allow God to shine through in our human limitations. (cf 2 Cor 4:7-10)
Secondly, it entails that we work together not just with the Lord but with each other. It is significant that Jesus “appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs.” They were appointed in pairs because Jesus knew that the mission ahead of them would be challenging and daunting. When we seek to proclaim the Good News on our own, we will succumb to the attacks of our enemies, and the frustrations of reaching out to those who are closed to the gospel. Jesus forewarned them that this would happen. “But whenever you enter a town and they do not make you welcome, go out into its streets and say, ‘We wipe off the very dust of your town that clings to our feet, and leave it with you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God is very near.’ I tell you, on that day it will not go as hard with Sodom as with that town.'” Instead of feeling angry and disheartened, they should encourage each other, surrendering them to the Lord to give them the grace to respond when the time is opportune. We do not take things into our own hands nor do we allow rejection and failure to deter us from continuing to proclaim the Good News.
Thirdly, we need to put those whom we serve before ourselves. Christian service must be freed of self-interest. We must be transformed in Christ, die with Him and rise with Him. This is what St Paul wrote, “The only thing I can boast about is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world. I want no more trouble from anybody after this; the marks on my body are those of Jesus.” We cannot serve the Lord and His people so long as we have vested interests. This was why the Lord told the disciples not to be choosy over which house they would lodge in. “Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you.” They should be contented with what is given, namely food and lodging. The focus should not be on remuneration but on changing and healing lives. (cf 2 Cor 4:10f)
Finally, the reward of being His messengers of the Good News is our own personal transformation. Indeed, when we seek the good of others, we receive the blessings twofold. This is what the Lord reminded the disciples. The joy of spreading the Good News goes beyond seeing that we make a difference in the lives of others but that we are enriched in our faith; grow in grace and generosity on our part. Hence, when “The seventy-two came back rejoicing. ‘Lord,’ they said, ‘even the devils submit to us when we use your name.’ He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Yes, I have given you power to tread underfoot serpents and scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy; nothing shall ever hurt you. Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.'”
So let us not delay any longer. The mission is urgent as the Lord said, “The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. Start off now.” We must not postpone our duty to proclaim the Good News wherever we are in whichever place we are in. Wherever we go, let us give hope, let us be peacemakers and reconcilers, let us be encouragers, enlighten people in truth and love. In this way, they will come to know that God is love in Jesus through us.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
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