Memorial of Saint Francis of Assisi
(Job 19:21-27; Luke 10:1-12)
In Luke’s gospel Jesus sends out two groups of disciples. In the first commissioning Jesus sends the Twelve with power over demons and the ability to cure diseases. They are to proclaim the Kingdom of God by using the powers that Jesus entrusted to them. In the second – the one we hear about in today’s gospel – Jesus sends out a much larger number of disciples. (There are seventy or seventy two, depending on the manuscript tradition that is followed.) Like in the first sending, Jesus tells them to heal the sick and to proclaim the kingdom but no mention is made of power over demonic spirits.
We should ask ourselves, why are there two commissionings in Luke and only one in Matthew and Mark? And then, what is the difference, if any, between the two? Luke very well may have a universal mission in mind when he writes of Jesus’ second commissioning. He is likely saying that the seventy (two) disciples represent most of Jesus’ followers. They are to proclaim by word and deed the coming of the Kingdom of God. In the more limited first sending Jesus commissions the Twelve who will become the first apostles with the power to confect the Eucharist. Here they are given the power to forgive sins -- the sacramental equivalent of casting out demons.
Today we celebrate one of the greatest saints of the Church. Francis of Assisi was known for his humility. He did not think himself worthy of being a priest and even resisting being made a deacon! Yet he found an order of preaching brothers to proclaim the Kingdom of God. He inspires all of us to go out and tell others about Jesus Christ. Like the seventy (two) are sent by Christ to proclaim the Kingdom, we are to tell others of the love of God in Jesus Christ.