The readings for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time celebrate the overpowering influence of the word of God, the Cross of Jesus and His mercy over the sins and weakness of mankind and the evil spirits preying upon sinful humanity.
We need to celebrate the goodness of our God, coming to the rescue of us poverty-stricken sinners rejoicing in a God who will never say “no” to repentant mankind.
The first reading tells us to “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her, all you who love her; exult, exult with her, all you who were mourning over her!” Our God has entered the human scene. He goes on: “Lo, I will spread prosperity over Jerusalem like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing torrent.”
Yes, Israel suffered from the torrential heat and aridity of the southern desert, so the image of an overflowing river bringing in God’s wealth for His people is very encouraging. He continues: “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort.”
Without God’s special love and help, Jerusalem would become lost in the world of darkness and sin. God’s word stirs up hope that God will come to her aid and use her to bring light to the world.
Apply this to our own lives. Where would we be if we didn’t pray daily and reflect on God’s word in our lives? When we don’t rely on God’s mercy for our sins, we rely on ourselves to handle the problem. This leads to frustration and eventually self-hatred. Instead of looking at ourselves as our Heavenly Father looks at us, as He sees in us His Beloved Son, we look at ourselves through our past failures and sins. When we hate ourselves, we actually blaspheme Jesus, whom the Father has sent to work actively in our hearts to save us.
When we don’t see Jesus in our lives because we have grown weary of asking for His mercy, we see only failure. It’s only a matter of time for the spirit of condemnation to further oppress us.
The Gospel is a fruit of what God promised in the first reading from Isaiah. Jesus sends His disciples out in pairs to proclaim the Good News and to heal the sick. God’s prosperity of mercy and healing flows upon all who are visited by the Lord’s disciples. This is a river of God’s prosperity.
“Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this household.’ If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you.” What Jesus really says is that if the people reject you, don’t reject them but continue to live the good news and be to them a witness to Christ’s peace.
If a town doesn’t receive them, they shake off the dust on their sandals as a symbolic way of saying: “We will not carry this town’s negativity to the next town we visit. We will leave behind yesterday’s frustrations.”
In their ministry, these disciples experienced the overflowing river of abundance about which Isaiah spoke. The Good News was preached, some people received it and many demons were driven out. Satan was getting a taste of things to come, but so were the disciples.
For the disciples this was eye-opening. They had never expected that they could be used by God to change the lives of His people. Perhaps their biggest surprise was that they had authority over demons.
Take a look at the second reading. The cross of Jesus Christ is the cause of the change from the prosperity prophesied by Isaiah in the first reading and the realized prosperity in the Gospel. “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.”
These readings are an overwhelming shout to us, cautioning us to watch what words and images we take in. If we indulge in the evening news and allow ourselves to be inundated by the pleasure-seeking hedonistic culture in which we are immersed, we are going to be discouraged. We simply can’t neglect spending quality time daily reflecting on the word of God.
A man once told me: “I was getting so discouraged watching the evening news and my spiritual director told me to stop watching it and to spend that time praying the Rosary for the salvation of the world. I did it! Now I am so filled with peace and joy.”
With the disciples in the Gospel we should shout for joy because we, too, have the opportunity daily to witness the Good News of the Gospel coming so alive in our hearts, and when troubled by the Evil One we have the weapons to send him scampering.
The darkness of the times only makes the cross of Jesus Christ and His good news such exciting experiences.
We may even go to bed, not certain if the world will survive till morning but absolutely certain that we will survive, if we are living in the state of grace. If the world fails to survive, we will wake up greeted by our Savior. That will be our greatest joy. If we live the Gospel message and pray daily, we are in a rocket ship, fueled by the Blood of Jesus, headed for the heart of the Most Holy Trinity!