Studying God’s Word

Isaiah 66:10-14c
Galatians 6:14-18
Luke 10:1-12, 17-20 or 10:1-9 [102C]
As we enter into the Fourth Sunday of Advent, In the Gospel reading for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, we hear Jesus speak about the mission of the seventy-two. Jesus draws upon the imagery of laborers harvesting their fields as he gathers these many coworkers. It was an impactful metaphor for the agrarian culture of the Palestinian Jews.
Still early in the Lucan travel narrative to Jerusalem, in today’s Gospel reading Jesus now extends his missionary outreach beyond the chosen Twelve Apostles (see Lk 9:1-6). Notice that the charge given to the Twelve (9:3-5) is nearly identical to the charge given to the seventy-two (10:4-8). For both groups, Jesus arranged these missions as the most efficient and effective means to communicate the reality of the kingdom of God in the world. The astonishing success of both the Twelve and the seventy-two in spreading the good news of the kingdom of God is also reported. Upon return from their initial mission, the seventy-two rejoiced, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.” 
As we hear in the first reading from the prophet Isaiah, the experience of the kingdom of God in Jesus’ public ministry and through the work of the disciples was foreseen in Israel’s prophetic tradition: “Lo, I will spread prosperity over Jerusalem like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing torrent.” In Jesus gathering together laborers to harvest the fields, Luke saw the prophecy of Isaiah fulfilled: “When you see this, your heart shall rejoice and your bodies flourish like the grass; the LORD’s power shall be known to his servants.”
The second reading is the final excerpt from Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. It is, in fact, the conclusion to his letter to the Gentile Christians of the Galatian churches. In his final appeal, Paul returns to the central motivation that prompted the writing of the letter: report of the circumcision of male Gentile believers in Christ in the region of Galatia. Paul begins by reiterating an essential element to the core of his Gospel message originally preached to the congregations of Galatia: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” For Paul, the cross of Christ is a defining moment in Israel’s salvation history. It was an event signaling to the world God’s salvation offered to all (Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female) who come to believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Because of the cross, Paul can testify with confidence that circumcision—the historic and cultic marker that divided Israel from all other nations—was rendered void of its previous status: “For neither does circumcision mean anything, nor does uncircumcision, but only a new creation.”
As a play on words, Paul speaks about the “marks” on his body that he endured over the years proclaiming the Gospel message: “From now on, let no one make troubles for me; for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body.” Paul is referring here to the scars on his body from being flogged, stoned, and beaten with rods (see, for example, 1 Cor 11:23-28; Acts 16:22). These are “marks” on his body that unite believers in Christ rather than the mark of circumcision that served to separate people of faith prior to Christ.

Dr. Daniel J. Scholz