Scripture in Depth
Reading I: Isaiah 66:10-14c
Originally this prophecy from Third Isaiah spoke of the joy following the restoration of Gods people from exile. The returning exiles are received back by the holy city as a mother who consoles them at her breasts and dandies them on her lap.
The metaphor is mixed, for it also speaks of YHWH sending his “prosperity” (shalom, which the caption inadequately renders as peace presumably to establish a link with the Gospel) like a river. (Note the reference to peace in the second reading also; otherwise there seems to be very little connection between the three readings.)
This reading, however, is appropriate for the post-Pentecost season, in which the Church enjoys the fruits of redemption, particularly the gift of the Spirit.
Responsorial Psalm: 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20
This is a psalm of thanksgiving for a national deliverance, pictured in imagery derived from the original Exodus: “He turned the sea into dry land: men passed through the river on foot.”
The prophecies of Second Isaiah spoke of the return from exile in these terms, so the psalm forms a good response to the first reading. It is a thanksgiving for all the blessings of redemption and, for us particularly, for the gift of the Spirit.
The latter verses of the psalm (here represented by Ps 60:16 and 20) take a surprisingly individualistic turn. It is reasonable to suppose that at some juncture two originally distinct psalms were combined.
The Christian sees a personal religious experience as part of the experience of the entire body, while the experience of the entire body is reflected in the experience of the individual.
The gift of the Holy Spirit is at once corporate and individual. At times in the history of the Church one aspect has been emphasized at the expense of the other. Both must be held in balance.
Reading II: Galatians 6:14-18
It was Paul’s custom to dictate his letters to an amanuensis, and then to take the pen himself and add a few concluding words. In these words he summarized and drove home the message of the whole letter.
The purpose of Galatians is to dissuade his Gentile readers from lapsing into syncretism. They are probably not Judaizing in the strict sense, for Paul has to remind them that anyone who gets circumcised is obligated to keep the whole law, which would have been self-evident to a genuine Judaizer.
Paul “glories,” not in circumcision as his opponents do, but in the cross. What matters for him is that the believers have been re-created into a new existence, and in this new existence it is not the marks of circumcision but the marks of his apostolic sufferings, in which Christ crucified is manifested, that are important.
Finally, the Apostle gives his readers his blessing in a style that suggests (as the conclusion of other letters, especially 1 Corinthians, suggest even more clearly) that his letters were written to lead into the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
Gospel: Luke 10:1-12, 17-20 or 10:1-9
All three synoptic Gospels record a mission of the Twelve during Jesus’ earthly ministry. The mission of the Seventy (some texts have seventy-two) is peculiar to Luke.
In chapter 9 Luke has already followed his Marcan source for the mission of the Twelve. Here he follows Q and his special material for the mission of the Seventy.
The Q material is also used by Matthew in his mission charge to the Twelve. So it is clear that the idea of a mission of the Seventy was created, not by Q or Mark, but by Luke or his special material.
There can be little doubt that the number seventy is symbolic. The mission of the Twelve represents the Church’s mission to Israel (twelve tribes); and the mission of the Seventy, its mission to the nations of the world (which according to Jewish tradition, numbered seventy or seventy-two).
Some critics maintain that the whole idea of missions during the earthly ministry is a retrojection of the post-Easter mission into the earthly life of Jesus. But it is noteworthy that the disciples are charged to proclaim Jesus’ own message: “The kingdom of God has come near to you,” not the Christological kerygma of the post-Easter Church.
The mission is to be characterized by urgency and detachment. The exact expression of this urgency and detachment is conditioned by the circumstances of the time. But in some form or other, urgency and detachment must always characterize the Church’s mission.
Two other features are worthy of note. First, it is not the disciples (and therefore not the Church) that initiate the mission. The initiative comes from the Lord of the harvest in response to the Church’s prayer.
The disciples return from their mission elated by their success, but Jesus at once dampens their elation: “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
There is an even more significant joy for the missionary: prior to their mission, they had been admitted to the privilege of partaking in the eschatological salvation. When they forget that, they are tempted to think that the mission is their own cause and that the success is their own achievement.
Even an apostle or an evangelist is a justified sinner.
**From Saint Louis University