Reflection for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.
The account of the creation of man in the Book of Genesis (2:18) tells us that God had an “afterthought” and said: “it is not good for the man to be alone. I will make him a helper suitable for him”. We know the rest of the story; the man got a helper (the woman), and they became the first pair of human beings.
When God was planning the project of destroying the world with the flood due to the rise of wickedness and violence on earth, God instructed Noah to put animals in pairs into the ark (Genesis 6:19-20). Following the depravity of Sodom and Gomorrah, we can recall that God sent two angels to destroy the city (Genesis 19:1ff).
We are taking the time to explore the concept of paring to give some background to the power of “two” as we reflect on why our Lord Jesus Christ sent out his disciples in pairs for ministry.
The Abundant Harvest
The Gospel of this Sunday (Luke 10:1-12, 17-20) told us that the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. In the previous Gospel of (Mark 6:7), Jesus called the Twelve Apostles to him and began to send them out in pairs and gave them authority over unclean spirits.
A very important question is: “what is the abundant harvest?” Ordinarily, one may think of harvest as when crops are reaped after planting. However, harvest in the Lord’s usage is evangelical and has to do with redirecting people’s souls to the Lord. Simply put, harvest is the ministry of soul recovery.
The Pairing of Laborers: The Power of Community in Functionality
Why did Jesus send the disciples in pairs and not in singles? If you pay attention to the introductory part of our reflection, you will discover that pairing is a powerful divine pattern from the inceptions. The Book of Ecclesiastes (4:9-12) says:
Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls. And has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
The passage gives us a broad spectrum that lets us see why our Lord Jesus Christ paired the disciples for the abundant harvest mission. God knows from the beginning that nobody can do it alone. Even at creation, God repeatedly said: “let us.” The divine ministry is a “let us” affair, not an “I alone” affair.
The mission of the seventy-two is a powerful reminder to us that life and ministry are better together than in isolation. We come together to harness our competencies, not to highlight competition. And to harness our competencies, there would be the need for individuals to agree. The prophet Amos says two cannot walk together unless they agree (Amos 3:3).
Unfortunately, ministry has become an individual enterprise in our day and age. The Church should never be personal property; in fact, no individual should own a Church; if it is Church, then it belongs to Christ, and anyone else is a laborer.
Moving Forward: Obtaining Important Ministry keys
A very careful study of the words of our Lord in the Gospel narrative shows that helps keys to ministry:
Prayer: Prayer is an important key to ministry. Jesus said in the Gospel passage: “ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” Ask means pray! So, they were not to take it for granted that the Lord was sending. There would be a need to ask for divine presence even as the mission is amid wolves.
Divine Provision: We often worry so much about many things when God is providing what we need. So, Jesus advised them not to worry about excess luggage, which means worldly concerns. Recall that Jesus says, “seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and these things will be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).
Preach Peace: In the ministry instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ, he asked them to preach peace. When peace comes first, other things will fall into their proper places. Recall that when Jesus rose from the dead, his first words were, “peace be with you” (John 20:21).
Rejoice about your heavenly reward: After the harvest of souls, the disciples returned rejoicing over the success of their mission reminiscing how demons were subject to them. But our Lord cautioned them on the danger of arrival mentality. It speaks of rejoicing too soon or too early.
Instead, our Lord asked them to rejoice because their names are written in heaven. There is a great possibility that we could save others and remain unsaved. Our Lord, therefore, advised them to rejoice because their names are written in heaven beyond the glory of their mission here on earth.
The most important lesson we need to learn is that we are all laborers in different ways as ministers and lay members of the Church. The mandate to make disciples of all nations is the function of every Christians, especially throughout our lives.
God bless you.