A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah
This book has three sections, and this is the last. It refers to the Babylonian Exile from 597 B.C to 539 B.C. Jerusalem was in ruins as the exiles returned. Imagine how they felt coming back to their holy city, the center of their ancient religion, to find it destroyed.
God encourages them by promising that Jerusalem will be restored and will nurse them like a mother. “For thus says the Lord: Lo, I will spread prosperity over Jerusalem like a river, and the wealth of nations like an overflowing torrent. As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms, and fondled in her lap; as a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort. When you see this your heart shall rejoice.”
These words gave the people hope and courage in the face of devastation and the exhaustion from having lived so long under tyranny. This is why Jerusalem is so important to the Jewish people today, after so many centuries of heartbreaking disasters and disappointments. It remains a powerful symbol of God’s promise.
(Psalm 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20)
“Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.” Sadly, our beautiful earth is crying out to us today in pain as we continue to pollute its land, water, and air. Let us learn more about this tragedy and how we can help.
A reading from St. Paul's Letter to the Galatians
The Galatians were divided on the issue of circumcision; it was one of several issues that were causing division among them. Paul tells them, “neither does circumcision mean anything, nor does uncircumcision, but only a new creation.” There is something much more important: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” The Galatians have argued among themselves and with Paul, so he tells them, “From now on, let no one make troubles for me; for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body.”
Paul knew what was most important, the powerful love and presence of Jesus. It is a good lesson for us as we sometimes become upset over small matters and miss the big picture.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 10:1-12, 17-20)
Obviously 12 apostles were not enough to reach all the people who wanted to hear the Good News, so Jesus chose 72 more disciples and told them to depend on the generosity of the people in each town for food and lodging:
“Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals, and greet no one on the way. Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’ Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his payment. Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.’"
Jesus was aware that not everyone would accept the message, and he had especially harsh words for those who reject the message. “I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town.” Of course, there is no record of that happening anywhere the disciples went, so we have to consider this as hyperbole that Jesus used to make a point.
These were going to be very hard and dangerous journeys. Many of these disciples were harmed and several were martyred, but the message was powerful, and it gradually reached far beyond Jerusalem. It is a truly amazing story of courage and the power of the Spirit of God that went with those disciples and is with each of us today.
Can you think of times when you had to do something challenging, and it worked out? Have you thought how the power of the Holy Spirit within you helped you make the right decision and respond to the challenge?
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
Bill Ayers was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.