Why did Jesus send 72 disciples? What is the meaning of that number?
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The Gospel for this Sunday is Lk 10:1-12; 17-20
1. Manual for everyone
In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives so much concrete advice and guidance to those who preach the Good News that it could safely be called a manual, which can be used by every single Christian.
2. Key words
The Lord appointed 72 others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit.
The number of 72 disciples has a symbolic meaning. In ancient times it was believed that there were 72 nations in the world. This means that Jesus sends disciples to everyone without exception.
Jesus sends them by twos because the preaching of the Gospel is based on the word of at least two witnesses. Moreover, Jesus does not want the Good News to be preached alone.
Christ wants those preaching the Gospel to support each other. Each of us will go through rough patches, at which time the other person helps out.
The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.
In the tradition of the Church, these words are read as Jesus’ encouragement to pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious orders, as well as for missionary vocations. But every Christian is called to be a missionary in his or her community.
Go on your way!
Get off the couch and put on your trekking shoes! Jesus encourages this, and Pope Francis reminds everyone of it. It is crucial that we embark on our way and reach out to people, rather than just sit or stand around.
I am sending you like lambs among wolves.
Paradoxically, this is a powerful image of the disciples’ safety, as lambs belong to the Lord. Furthermore, preachers of the Good News cannot be like wolves and use violence or aggression.
Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way.
Such an attitude strengthens people’s trust in God’s Providence; he attends to our material needs. Having no sandals on makes us more like servants who walked barefoot. Jesus advises against greeting others, because in His time greetings took a great deal of time, and there is no time to waste on courtesies.
Jesus’ words are addressed to all of us, not just to priests and religious. By virtue of baptism, each of us is a disciple of Jesus, whom He sends to carry smiles, goodness, faith, hope, and love to others. This is precisely the Gospel in practice.