“After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others, and sent them on ahead of Him , two by two, into every town and place where He Himself was about to come.” (Luke 10:1).
It is the title of Luke’s last discourse about mission. The evangelist, Saint Paul’s fellow worker, has assimilated Paul’s spirit. In fact, he relates three of Jesus’ apostolic speeches: one explains Jesus’ ministry (4:14-30); the other the apostles’ (9:1-6) and the third that of the seventy-two disciples (10:1ff). The three speeches throw light on each other: from the Son’s mission on behalf of the brethren, the mission of the twelve, as well as that from all the others originate. Moreover, Luke follows the Gospel with the Acts of the Apostles: what Jesus “started saying and doing” (Acts 1:1) is what, after Him, the apostles keep doing and saying in every time and place. This year we will read Luke 10:1-24 as if with a magnifying glass: it is an inexhaustible mine. We will put in evidence the richness of the text by commenting every expression of it. The above title tells us the meaning of mission: it brings salvation to all peoples. Salvation is the Son’s countenance who reveals to us, humans, our hidden identity. The One who is always “coming,” does come by means of the disciple’s witness who has His same countenance.
“After this” – The Mission comes, after what was said in the previous text (Luke 9:57-62). In it, Jesus speaks of the three gifts that make His disciple similar to Him: freedom from property of things, people and himself, as fruit of a love that overcomes every egoism and slavery. In order to give witness to Him, it is necessary first to have the Son’s Spirit.
“The Lord appointed seventy two other disciples” – The Lord, then, in the manner He had called the twelve, singles out, through the community, the other “witnesses of His Resurrection” (Acts 1:22). According to the ancient point of view, 72 are the peoples of the earth: the Mission is towards all. Whoever excludes even one, is excluding the Son who made Himself the last of all. Every disciple is apostle and every apostle is disciple. Disciple is everyone who “learns” from the Son, who is such because of being “sent” (=apostle) to the brethren. These 72 are “others,” but not different from the first twelve. One is the mission of all: that of the Son who knows the Father’s love.
“He sent them” – As the Father sends the Son, in the same way the Son sends whoever is like Himself. It is love that makes him an “apostle”: it “sends” him outside himself, towards the brethren, in order to fulfill his own identity as son.
“Two by two” – Jesus sends them “two by two” not only for mutual help: we must be at least two in order to witness love. “Two” is seed of community and victory over the sin of loneliness. No apostle may be alone. Only fraternity witnesses to the common Father. The communion among brethren is the fulfillment of the Gospel and its only credible testimony.
“Ahead of Him” – The apostles are messengers sent ahead of the appearance of the One who comes to judge the world. It is the Son’s face, the same as the Father’s, whose judgment is tenderness and compassion for all who are lost. The messenger’s testimony carries, wherever it arrives, the Lord’s salvation.
“In every town and place” – The “city” made up of houses includes the public and private spheres; the “place,” empty space, signifies also the temple. The whole universe belongs to the Lord, who gives everything as a gift, and gives Himself wholly to all. His coming is everywhere; only human beings can welcome Him because they are able to answer love with love.
“Where He Himself was about to come” – His coming, always impending, is linked to the sending of those who will prepare His welcoming. The One who always “is to come,” will effectively come whenever we welcome a brother who reveals His countenance. He is at the door and knocks: if one opens, the feast begins.