THE Sunday gospel in Luke 10:1-12, 17-20 teaches us many important things about discipleship. It gives us a glimpse of how it is to work for the Divine Master – our Almighty God. The teachings were directed by the Lord Jesus to the seventy-two persons he sent out on a mission, and by extension, to each one of us who identifies himself as a follower of Christ.

In verse 1 it says that Jesus sent the missionaries in pairs ahead of him to every town and place he intended to visit. This highlights the idea that working in God’s vineyard is not a solo affair. The task is collective; it is meant to be shared with others who, like the rest, were given talents, treasures, or time to serve God and his people. Consistent with this view, St. Paul, in chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians, likens the church to a body with many parts. Members of the church perform a variety of roles, depending on how God has designated them. Nevertheless, it is God’s will that there be unity, not chaos and conflict, in diversity.

In being sent ahead of Jesus, the implication is that the disciple’s mission is to prepare the community for the coming of God. The missionary is thus expected to advance, not his personal agenda, but the agenda of the Lord. In doing so, he need not worry about being rejected by the people he was sent to. If accepted, the peace of God will rest on this people (verse 6), but if rejected, God’s retribution, worse that what Sodom has suffered, will seal their fate.

In verse 3, Jesus warns that the missionaries will be sent like lambs among wolves. This is because the Christian mission is not a walk in the park. It is not about telling people what they want to hear, but sharing the message of God in its fullness – his love and his justice rolled up in one. This message calls for repentance from sins and living a new life of obedience to God − not an empty promise of prosperity without sacrifice, but an assurance of God’s blessings with the reality of the cross. Thus, it is a mission not palatable to everyone, prompting the “wolves” to oppose it, and to do everything at their disposal to suppress it. Nevertheless, verse 19 contains very assuring words from the Lord, “Behold, I have given you the power ‘to tread upon serpents’ and scorpions, and upon the full force of the enemy, and nothing will harm you.”

How about logistical support – the resources that the missionary will be needing to actualize his mission? The missionary is instructed “to carry no bag, no sack, no sandals; and to greet no one along the way” (Luke 10:4). Not be interpreted literally, what this means is that the missionary should not be too preoccupied with concerns about his material needs, but to focus on the urgency of his mission. He can rest assured that God will provide for all his needs, holding on to the promise, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you” (Matthew 6:33). Of course, the church can be an effective instrument in fulfilling this promise by taking care of its missionaries and workers in a modest way, for “the laborer deserves his payment” (Luke 10:7).

Lastly, in verse 17, the seventy-two missionaries returned to the Lord with great joy, reporting that even the demons were subject to them in Jesus’ name. What was Jesus’ reply? “Rejoice not because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). The ultimate reward, then, of a successful mission is not in the miracles or wondrous works that a missionary is able to do by the power of God, but by the unspeakable joy of heaven that awaits the faithful worker of the Divine Master.