Jesus has a vision in this week’s Gospel: Satan falling like lightning from the sky, the enemy vanquished by the missionary preaching of His Church. Sent out by Jesus to begin gathering the nations into the harvest of divine judgment (see Isaiah 27:12–13; Joel 4:13), the seventy-two can be seen as a sign of the continuing mission of the Church. Carrying out the work of the seventy-two, the Church today proclaims the coming of God’s kingdom. She offers His blessings of peace and mercy to every household on earth, “every town and place He himself was to visit.” Their commission to bestow peace on others does not rest on any personal quality of theirs but is part of a spiritual gift, a link with heaven. Like Jesus words on appearing in the upper room following his resurrection from the dead were “Peace be with you”, so the first words that they are to utter are a prayer of peace. Those of goodwill, with a heart open to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, will receive this precious gift of God’s saving presence. This is precisely the biblical concept of shalom, not just an absence of strife, or a calm outlook on life, but a radical principle of life, a mode of being, a participation in God’s life-giving nature.
Our Lord’s tone is solemn today, for in the preaching of the Church “the kingdom of God is very near to you,” the time of decision has come for every person. Those who do not receive His messengers will be doomed like Sodom. We are reminded that we are the messengers and also, we are the recipients of his message too. We should not reject that which has been proclaimed to us. But those who believe will find peace and mercy, protection and nourishment in the bosom of the Church, the Mother Zion we celebrate in this week’s beautiful First Reading, the “Israel of God” Paul blesses in this week’s Epistle. The Church is a new family of faith (see Galatians 6:10) in which we receive a new name that will endure forever (see Isaiah 66:22), a name written in heaven. In this week’s Psalm, we sing of God’s “tremendous deeds among men” throughout salvation history. But of all the works of God, none has been greater than what He has wrought by the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Changing the sea into dry land was but an anticipation and preparation for our passing over, for what Paul calls the “new creation.” And as the people of Israel during the Exodus period was protected in a wilderness of serpents and scorpions (see Deuteronomy 8:15), He has given His Church power now over “the full force of the enemy.” Nothing will harm us as we make our way through the wilderness of this world, awaiting the Master of the harvest, awaiting the day when all on earth will shout joyfully to the Lord and sing praise to the glory of His name.