All the readings today reflect a theme of peace. Isaiah’s poetry is of an image of a woman as the new and eternal Jerusalem, a place of comfort, beauty, abundance. Jerusalem will be as a mother to us; we will flourish and rejoice in her company. John Pilch (a scripture scholar) says that St. Paul reminds us to reject a way of life measured only by external (secular) observances of the law (like worrying about circumcision). We are created anew, and “Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule…”
In today’s Gospel, Jesus sends out the “Seventy-two” with instructions regarding how to propagate belief in Him by their example of faith and peace, and by what they say and what they do in His name. The first thing they are instructed to say is: “Peace to this household.” Christ relies on the witness of His disciples—that’s us! We carry on the sacred tradition of all the old prophets in preparing people for the next coming of Christ. By our baptism we have been commissioned like the Seventy-two who were sent out in the Gospel. We are sent to manifest the presence of Christ by our mercy and love in all things. We are transformed by this work: changed because we do not live for ourselves now, but for God, who writes our name in heaven—this is mission! At this holiday of Independence Day we are reminded that to be peacemakers is the challenge of our Lord Jesus. The U.S. Bishops said it succinctly: “Peacemaking is not an optional commitment. It is a requirement of our faith. [The Challenge of Peace, 1983]
Christ sends us all today to labor and harvest in the field of souls. St. Paul reminds us that we must be a new creation, and Jesus in the Gospel gives us instruction for our mission and work in the kingdom: we are told what we are sent to do, how we are going to do it, and what we need to keep in mind in order to deal with what we will meet. But if you don’t believe you have a mission, then all of these instructions are academic—and they don’t relate to what is real and present and active in our lives right now.
You are sent to all the people you meet; you are sent to prepare them to receive His inspiration, comfort, mercy, peace and love—and you are warned how difficult this is—you are sent like “a lamb among wolves.” You are not to force anything; but to make peace, to respect what the other person is and has, to seek common ground as fellow beings, and to gratefully share the light and love of Christ. What a different world this would be if all acted this way.
What does this liturgy have to do with this holiday? We pray for our deceased veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for us—and we pray for the courage and strength to be Christ-like patriots—American Christians called to praise God, work for peace and justice, the poor and the oppressed.
In the words of Emma Lazarus (1849-1887), engraved in bronze inside the Statue of Liberty:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden shore!
Our lamp is the light of Christ. The Psalm today is: “Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.” If your life and choices show those around you that this is what you believe—that you live in God’s peace and joy and live for why you were sent—then you will live the mission that you have been given. May God bless us and our nation with His mission of peace, and in this good work you will “Rejoice because your names are written in heaven."