Jesus chooses his disciples. He instructs them and then warns them of the dangers ahead. The disciples depart on their mission, succeeding only by the power of his name. Rejoicing as they return, Jesus speaks to them of even greater joy. This narrative is a roadmap of the spiritual journey - a description of the spiritual life in miniature.
Sometimes this journey unfolds in small encounters over the days of our lives. Sometimes it encompasses a single lifetime in a distinctive, traceable, profound, faith-journey. Many times these moments happen all at once - the little missions and the grand journey. They are like ripples in a pond overlapping - some bigger, some smaller, all important.
The key is to recognize them.
Jesus chooses. We are chosen as instruments of God's love. We are chosen in our baptism. We are chosen in our being present in a worshiping community. If we fail to see ourselves as being individually chosen we will never have the confidence to begin the journey.
Jesus sends. We are sent by rising to the challenges of the Gospel. We are sent at our confirmation. We are sent by our God-given vocations. We are sent at the end of each Eucharist when we are asked to go in peace to love and serve the Lord and one another. If we fail to see these sending moments in our lives we will lack direction and purpose.
Jesus instructs. We are instructed by the Word of God through Sacred Scripture and we should always strive to take the Word of God personally. It needs to constantly challenge and speak to us. The kingdom of God is at hand here and now for us as it was for the seventy-two disciples. We, like them, are chosen as builders of the same kingdom in our own lifetimes.
Jesus warns. We too face our own wolves throughout our journey. Although they vary in size and number it seems that they are present to everyone. Not only do the disciples travel without a money bag, sack or sandals, but they travel without weapons of defense. Even the shepherds were able to wield a rod and staff in defense of their sheep. However, the disciples are only armed with their faith and the name of Jesus. They need nothing more. Neither do we. We labor as the disciples did.
As he looks over the abundant harvest, instead of immediately sending the disciples out, Jesus directs them to pray to "the Master of the harvest to send out laborers." Big moments in Luke's gospel are always placed within prayerful contexts. Those who come to serve will be the fruit of our prayer and discernment. A visit to any parish reveals that those who proclaim the gospel today do it in so many diverse ways - each one different, but equally important. The mission belongs to all. The harvest is ready right now. Jesus instructs all of us to go quickly and travel light. We are to spread his peace, cure the sick, shelter the homeless, comfort those in need and proclaim the reign of God.
God has made humanity as a patch-work quilt and Jesus is the New Jerusalem who comforts and nurtures those in exile. He gathers the scattered and in him, as Isaiah says, we "shall find our comfort." There is a reason that Jesus sent the seventy-two out in pairs. No one of us is the "model disciple." No one of us can proclaim the Good News alone.
This being so, why not look into the eyes of others, not so much as to see the reflection of ourselves in their eyes — but to understand that behind these eyes there is someone to be understood, someone to be valued, and a higher purpose to be achieved by doing so.
When we do this we become healthy and joy-filled laborers in the harvest.