The 72 are to go on their way carrying no money, luggage or sandals, and without stopping for casual conversation. Surely, this is no easy way to begin a journey. Yet, in spite of all these stiff stipulations, the 72 set out. Why?
Christ relies on the witness of His disciples. They go to announce His coming and to prepare His way. Their faith and conviction will be the spark that stirs up faith in the lives of others who hear their testimony.
The first words of the 72 (“Peace …”) echo the words of the angels to the shepherds at the birth of Christ. They echo too the words spoken by the Risen Lord to His Apostles that first Easter evening. In this way, the greeting of the 72 heralds the offer of redemption, forgiveness, healing and divine friendship. Their greeting of peace becomes in a way sacramental, because it represents the saving presence of Christ.
The 72 are to eat and drink what is set before them. Eating and drinking with others holds an important place in the ministry of Jesus. He eats and drinks with sinners in order to manifest the depths of God’s mercy. Such table fellowship (communion) anticipates the eternal feast of the Kingdom. Therefore, the 72 are to eat what is set before them as a sign of their reliance on God’s providential compassion. Their presence at table indicates the redemptive love and initiative of Jesus Christ Himself.
In the same way, the 72 manifest the presence of Christ by curing the sick and by their immunity from the power of evil. In all that they do, the 72 chosen disciples point the way to Christ Jesus. They have permitted themselves to be commissioned by God. They have trusted the Lord in living with risk and suffering rejection. They come back to Jesus Christ transformed. No longer do they live for themselves, but for God who keeps their names as His own in heaven.
Like the 72 disciples, we also have been chosen and sent out by the Lord to give witness to Him in our lives. The instructions of Jesus show the urgency of proclaiming the Kingdom of God above every other priority. They remind us not to be weighed down by too much concern for the things of this world in light of the overwhelming need to reveal Christ and His offer of salvation. As we travel on our pilgrim journey through life, let us be like the 72, whose chief concern was first and foremost to bring Christ to others. If we do this, then we too can rejoice, for our names will be written in heaven.
(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)