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June 30, 2010
Breaking Open the Word
By James Cavanagh
*Editor's note: For the July 11 edition of Breaking Open the Word, click here
July 4th: 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Overview: The first reading describes the immense joy attending the return of God’s people after the Babylonian exile (597-537 B.C). The sight of the holy city filled the exiles with such joy that Jerusalem is compared to a loving mother embracing her children. Jerusalem prefigures the Church, which, like the holy city, is our mother and teacher who loves us with the tenderest love. The second reading focuses on the transforming power of the cross. One of the purposes of Paul’s letter to the Galatians was to help them guard against two dangers: One was the danger of lapsing back into a form of religion based on rules and outward religious acts, such as circumcision. The other danger was syncretism—the inclusion of pagan beliefs and practices in the life of the Church. Paul, therefore, points to the cross of Jesus Christ, a central symbol of our faith and a beacon of hope to millions. All three synoptic Gospels testify to the call and sending of the Twelve, but only Luke bears witness to the sending of 72 disciples (other translations say “70”). The number recalls how Moses appointed 70 elders to help him teach and govern the people during their time in the desert (Nm 11:16). The 70 (or 72) thus represents The New People of God sent out by Christ on a mission to the whole human race. The main point of the Gospel is that the Church is missionary by her very nature. The Church goes out to the lost and lonely in order to bring them safely home.
Key verse: “The Lord appointed 72 others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs” (Lk 10:1).
“Catechism of the Catholic Church”: “The Lord’s missionary mandate is ultimately grounded in the eternal love of the Most Holy Trinity: ‘The Church on earth is by her nature missionary since, according to the plan of the Father, she has as her origin the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit.’ The ultimate purpose of mission is none other than to make men share in the communion between the Father and the Son in their Spirit of love” (No. 850).
Pope Benedict XVI: “If you do not become his witnesses in your daily lives, who will do so in your place? Christians are, in the Church and with the Church, missionaries of Christ sent into the world. This is the indispensable mission of every ecclesial community: to receive from God and to offer to the world the Risen Christ, so that every situation of weakness and of death may be transformed, through the Holy Spirit, into an opportunity for growth and life” (Homily, May 14).
Life application: Those who become Catholic often have the experience of “coming home.” Some are “lapsed” Catholics who’ve been away from the Church for awhile, while some are Protestants whose journey of faith has led them to the Catholic Church. There are many reasons why people become Catholic, but one thing they have in common: they experience in their homecoming the unfathomable love of God in a Church that comforts them as a mother comforts her child.
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese.