Spirituality of the Readings
Jesus sent seventy-two disciples out to prepare each town he would visit. He gave his famous instructions about shaking the dust from their feet (Gospel).
Isn’t it our duty to go out and spread the good news of the kingdom too? This Sunday we concentrate on that calling. Not a flat duty imposed by guilt or command, but by gratitude. Liturgical spirituality would say that it is in return for the great goodness of God to each of us and all of us.
Remember last week? Jesus was recruiting. He used tough language (“Let the dead bury their dead,” etc.), and now he is giving army-like instructions as to how the seventy-two should act when they journey to the towns (“Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals”). Do we find ourselves ready to be sent out when we see, as far back as Good Friday, just how much God is willing do in order to love us and share our lives?
When someone loves you and stays with you,
isn’t it normal to respond with gratitude?
What was it that Jesus himself experienced that made him so grateful, that made him act with self-giving and surrender on the cross? We want to know because we are to imitate him.
One answer could be a theoretical one about the Trinity, about Jesus being the Second Person, close as close can be to the Father of love. But on Sunday we will have very earthy images that fill out that answer.
Take a look at the First Reading. It is a beautiful welcome home to a people who had been exiled from Jerusalem, who had hung up their harps because they did not want to sing in captivity.
The Lord tells them to
suck fully of the milk of [Jerusalem’s] comfort, that you may nurse with delight at her abundant breasts! … As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms, and fondled in her lap; as a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.
Maternal images, immediate, utterly compelling.
Peace flows from this motherhood of God. Our wild and wooly lives emerge from it and somehow always go back to it.
Jesus had been nurtured at Mary’s breast. She was the mother who bore him and loved him and raised him. Through her and with her he was nurtured, and as well, at the breast of the Holy Spirit. His physical self had needs like everyone else, but his divine nature was now fulfilled, at all times, in the tender union that is the Trinity.
When he threw out his arms on the cross he asked the God who suckled him that most terrible of all questions, “Why have you forsaken me?” Even then, even in agony of soul and body, he remembered somehow the love that cradled him. His hope-against-hope let him stay on the cross.
You and me: when we forget the fond love God for our wriggling, snotty, childlike selves, we can still recognize that we knew such love in the past. And that we will know it again. We need to wait and pray, and, yes, suffer.
God is the crux of our lives. God sends us forth gracefully into the world. When someone loves us and stays with us, don’t we keep learning to lovingly respond?
John Foley, SJ
Fr. John Foley, SJ is a composer and scholar at Saint Louis University.
**From Saint Louis University