14th Sunday Year C
Theme of the week: How do you answer God’s call? Am I going to accept his invitation with a true conversion of the heart; or am I going to reject him?
The First Reading was written after the return of the Israelites from their exile to Babylon. In this passage, Jerusalem carries two meanings. At a superficial level, it refers the earthly city of Jerusalem, to which the Israelites had just returned. With their homeland restored, there was a sense of expectation that the end of age is near. In this context, Jerusalem also refers to heaven. (See Rev 21:2, which refers to heaven as the New Jerusalem.) In this new Jerusalem, our heavenly home, God will console and nurse us, and we will rejoice in eternal peace (verse 12-13).
In the Gospel, in line with the theme of the First Reading, Jesus promised his disciples that “the kingdom of God has come near” (verse 11). Jesus sent out 70 disciples to spread the Good News, to reach out to God’s people. While the Lord is ever eager is reach out to us, it is up to us to decide whether to accept his invitation. If we reject Jesus, then we will be rejected. For this was how Jesus instructed the disciples: that they should leave the unwelcoming city and wipe its dust off their feet (verse 11). This is a powerful gesture. For the Jews, the feet are the most undignified parts of the body. Hence, to wipe the dust off the most undignified parts of the body is to reject in disgust.
Throughout salvation history, many great men and women has responded to the Lord’s call by accepting his invitation. Paul, the author of this week’s Second Reading, is an excellent example. As a consequence of his faith, Paul suffered much, including stoning (Acts 14:19-20), flogging and imprisonment (Acts 16:22). Through these persecutions, it was Paul’s faith in Christ that has sustained him. In the Second Reading this week, Paul explained that it is faith that leads to salvation, not strict adherence to the Pharisian Laws. In the passage, Paul denounced one of those Laws, by declaring that the Jewish custom of circumcism plays no part in one’s salvation (verse 15). (For an account of the events leading Paul to this conclusion, read Acts 15:22-29.) Rather than adhere to such ritualistic practices, it is a true conversion of the heart that counts – this is what Paul called “a new creation” (verse 15). In the context of the First Reading and the Gospel, let us reflect on our own faith lives. Have I accepted God’s invitation? Am I just paying lip services to my faith life? Or have I undergone a real conversion of the heart?