Sunday, July 7, is the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
July 10 is the feast of a Catholic supermom — it is the memorial of St. Felicity and her seven sons.
She was a wealthy Christian woman who was a widow with seven sons in the second century. Her holy way of life inspired pagans to convert — and that inspired pagan priests to call for her head to Antoninus Pius, the emperor. She was captured along with her sons and told to sacrifice to the gods. Said the judge: "Unhappy woman, if you wish to die, die! But do not destroy your sons."
Felicity answered, "My sons will live forever if, like me, they scorn the idols and die for their God."
It is said she was martyred eight times because she had to watch her sons killed first. Then she joined them in heaven.
Isaiah 66:10-14; Psalm 66:1-7, 16, 20; Galatians 6:14-18; Luke 10:1-12, 17-20 or 10:1-9
Today’s Gospel tells the tale of the 72 disciples who were sent out in pairs. Their mission is simple: They are sent out without money bag, sack or sandals, and they are to greet no one along the way. This is no pleasure stroll; it is abandonment to God’s providence. When they come to a house, they are to pray for and with those people, serve their needs and accept their charity. When they are rejected, they are to move on with a parting word of warning.
To this day, some religious orders imitate this practice, sending young candidates out two by two for this humbling and liberating experience. We know one man who did this with the Jesuits. He said it changed his life; he can see differences between who he is now and who he was before the experience.
We know how it changed the first 72. Some ancient lists claim to name them. The lists are a "Who’s Who" of early Christianity. They include Sts. Mark and Luke the Evangelists; St. Stephen, who would be the first martyr; Linus, the future Pope Linus; and various bishops.
But we don’t need these lists to know that these disciples became strong Christians through this experience. The Gospel tells us, "The 72 returned rejoicing and said, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.’" Jesus told them all he had done for them: He has made them seemingly immune to demonic forces. "Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you," he says, "but rejoice because your names are written in heaven."
Short of heading out two by two on our own, how can we learn from their experience?
1. Simplicity. They kept it simple, neither bringing too much with them nor complicating their message.
2. Companionship. There is no such thing as a "Lone Ranger" Christian. We are meant to partner with others in our efforts for the faith.
3.Single-mindedness. Just as the disciples "greeted no one along the way" and "shook the dust from their feet" when rejected, we should remember that our faith journey has a destination and a timetable; we aren’t called to drift through life for God, but to head resolutely to him.
In the Orthodox Church, ancient hymns extol the praises of the 72 disciples (or 70, as some ancient manuscripts say). One says: "O faithful, let us praise with hymns the choir of the 70 disciples of Christ. They have taught us all to worship the undivided Trinity, for they are divine lamps of the faith."
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas.