The readings are from the Catholic Lectionary for daily mass, while the headlines are chosen to emind me of the world in which I blog.
The seventy-two came back rejoicing. ‘Lord,’ they said ‘even the devils submit to us when we use your name.’ He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Yes, I have given you power to tread underfoot serpents and scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy; nothing shall ever hurt you. Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.’
It was then that, filled with joy by the Holy Spirit, he said, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’
Then turning to his disciples he spoke to them in private, ‘Happy the eyes that see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.’
Jesus sent out 72 disciples with the good news of the kingdom to communicate it in word and action. This passage describes their return.
Jesus receives their postive report with humour. “Yes,” he says, ” you knocked Satan right off his perch and now he’s powerless!” But he tells them seriously that if they act in the power of his love, they will be invincible. Their names are written in heaven, that is, on the palms of God. God knows their faithfulness and will keep them in his love. Jesus is never shy of saying that goodness will be rewarded.
Then Luke depicts Jesus as addressing God directly in his joy that his disciples have understood his gospel. The learned Rabbis have rejected his teaching but a bunch of Galilean peasants have received it -they have become like little children, vulnerable and without rights, in order to communicate the gospel of God’s compassion. Wordly people will see the ministry of the Kingdom as foolishness, but Jesus knows that God has entrusted his very heart to him as he has given his to God, so that they are transparent to each other. This is Luke’s expression of the mystery of Jesus’ relationship to God. He indulges in no speculation but simply articulates the unity of the human Jesus with God. It is the union of childlike trust and fatherly love and can therefore be opened to others who learn the same trust from Jesus, who adds that this simple intimacy is the fulfilment of his people’s history of faith.
We should not be lured by words like simple and childlike which describe the intimacy of God and his children, into forgetting that the practice of faith is fully adult, requiring costly obedience, sober wisdom and readiness for sacrifice. But even in the midst of suffering faith keeps its secret place of joy. In me this joy is dimmed by inadequate trust and frequent disobdedience, but I have known others, not all of them professed believers, in which it shone brightly. The joy of Jesus which Luke depicts is meant to be shared by his disciples.