Sometimes I need somebody’s help. Usually I ask a person who has proper skills or knowledge. The reason behind that it’s obvious: you wouldn’t ask a plumber to fix your car. When we need help, especially in important or serious matters we look for experts. But these people haven’t been specialists since the cradle; they were taught and trained by more experienced people; they practised and developed their knowledge and skills as they did their job; certainly they may have made mistakes and bad decisions. They know the bitterness of failure. But all these happenings shaped and developed their skills and knowledge.
In today’s gospel we hear about Jesus sending seventy two disciples as his messengers. They had to go to places where Jesus had wanted to go. We don’t know much about them except that the Apostles were not among them. In those happy days when the Church had no clergy the messengers quite likely were ordinary people, who gave their time for the cause of God’s kingdom. At that stage they weren’t very experienced preachers or healers; Jesus gave them clear – though unusual – instructions and tips. When they headed off they started their apprenticeship. Eventually they came back to Jesus joyfully sharing their experience: they were surprised that “even the devils submit to us when we use you name”.
When Jesus sent the messengers in pairs; it means they visited thirty six locations; as the gospel says: “to all the towns and places he himself was to visit”. But I wonder if Jesus personally visited all those places; that’s possible but quite a hard task to do. I think that the answer is “no” and at the same time “yes”. I doubt that Jesus went personally to all those places; but his messengers brought him there: they healed people in Jesus’ name; they drove out evil spirits in Jesus’ name; they spread good news about God’s kingdom in Jesus’ name. Jesus himself extended such a mission after his resurrection; we read about it in Saint Matthew’s gospel: “Go, make disciples of all the nations […] and know I am with you always […], to the end of time”.
The mission from today’s gospel literally concerned those seventy two people; but this mission also concerns us. The mission hasn’t been accomplished yet; there are many people looking for consolation, liberation and acceptance; people who need forgiveness and love. When we listen carefully to today’s gospel we can hear Jesus saying: “Cure those […] who are sick and say: ‘The kingdom of God is very near to you’”. Our mission is helping people by bringing relief and words of comfort.
Some of us may think: “I can’t help, I don’t know how to”. Maybe you’re right; but if you don’t start now you’ll never know. Forget yourself: Jesus is at work.