First Reading Commentary
The prophet Isaiah speaks literally of the return to Jerusalem from exile and prophetically about the propagation of the Gospel.
An infant feels most comfortable and secure when being nursed by his/her mother. Comfort and security is the blessed gift that God is promising His children. In the New Testament as well there are references to milk: “I fed you with milk” (1 Corinthians 3:2), “Although by this time you should be teaching others, you need to have someone teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God; you need milk, not solid food” (Hebrews 5:12), and “Be as eager for milk as newborn babies - pure milk of the spirit to make you grow into salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:2-3).
“When you see this, your heart shall rejoice and your bodies flourish like the grass.” The idea of flourishing gives us a sense of excellence. As Christians, this image of excellence and comfort begins for us when we become a child of God at Baptism; and it never ends because of the promised resurrection and eternal life.
Second Reading Commentary
Saint Paul brings up the topic of circumcision because the Galatians feared persecution if this ritual wasn’t performed. What’s important, according to Saint Paul, is a “new creation” which means to be sealed with the Holy Spirit, becoming one with Jesus Christ and being transformed into a child of God; all of which occurs at Baptism.
The “Israel of God” is referring to the Church.
“From now on, let no one make troubles for me; for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body.” Saint Paul is asking for this topic of circumcision to be put to rest once and for all. On his first missionary journey to Galatia, Paul was mistreated and more than likely this is what he means by bearing the marks of Jesus on his body. Saint Paul, without a doubt, was not a stranger to physical or verbal abuse. There’s also the possibility that he bore the stigmata. This, however, is not known with any degree of certainty.
This weekend’s Gospel is a continuation of last weekend’s ‘Journey Narrative’. Today, Jesus sends seventy-two disciples, split up in pairs, to go and preach to the towns that our Lord intends to visit. The message that is to be preached is clear: “The Kingdom of God is at hand.”
We can also see, at least implicitly, Jesus fulfilling today’s First Reading. Jesus will be going from town to town with His final destination being Jerusalem. In the First Reading God promises comfort for Jerusalem; and what could be more comforting than the presence of Almighty God Incarnate? As we know, Jesus, the Comfort of Jerusalem will be rejected and crucified but that Supreme Sacrifice has gained for us eternal comfort.
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the Master of the harvest to send out laborers for His harvest.” Can this be any truer in our modern times? With a shortage in vocations to the priesthood our first duty is to follow the command of Jesus and pray to God, the Master of the harvest, to send more laborers.
“Greet no one along the way.” Jesus is not teaching us to be unsociable but rather it’s more of a continuation of the theme of last weekend’s Gospel: Keeping our eyes fixed on the Kingdom of God and avoiding obstacles. These seventy-two men are being sent to preach about eternal things, therefore, temporal goods like moneybags, sacks and sandals are not part of their luggage.
Jesus issues a warning concerning the rejection of the Kingdom of God: “I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town.” This is alarming when considering how secularized our culture is today. Again, the first order of business is prayer. Saint Clement of Rome writes: “Why are we so lost to all sense and reason that we have forgotten our membership of one another? There must be no time lost in putting an end to this state of affairs. We must fall on our knees before the Master and implore Him with tears to graciously pardon us, and bring us back again into the honorable and virtuous way of brothers and sisters who love one another. For that is the gateway of righteousness, the open gate to life. There are many gates standing open, but the gate of righteousness is the gate of Christ.”
The seventy-two men returned from their mission rejoicing because even the demons were subject to them. This is a certain sign of the reign of God. Jesus was acting through His disciples whenever they proclaimed His Name. The same is true today. There’s power in the Name of Jesus. One of the prayer practices of Eastern Christianity from the early days in the desert to this very day is to recall the Name of Jesus simply through one’s normal breathing pattern. With this practice one soon discovers in a very personal way the power that’s in His Name.
These men are elated about the power they had over demons in the Name of the Lord. Jesus shares their joy but tells them to be more exuberant about having their names written in heaven. Again, this is a continuation of our Lord’s lesson about staying focused on the Kingdom.