Jesus' instructions on the mission, in Mark and Matthew are addressed to the Twelve, in Luke they are found in two discourses, the first to the Twelve (9:1) and the second to the seventy-two. The number recalls the seventy pagan nations mentioned in Genesis (seventy-two in the Greek version): which means that the mission is not limited to the people of Israel, but that it will reach "to the ends of the earth", as Jesus will say before his ascension.
It may also refer to the seventy elders that God asked Moses to choose to help him in the government of the people, to which two others were later added, underlining that their mission has a divine origin.
Jesus' actions and words define the disciple and the mission. He sends them two by two: their brotherhood is essential, they do not go alone, to support each other. He sends them ahead of him: their role is to open the way, they are forerunners, like the Baptist. The first task he entrusts to them is to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers. Nor does the master of the harvest want to act alone: he involves his workers in the call of other workers, with their prayer. He warns them that they will be like lambs in the midst of wolves.
However, he exhorts them to go without baggage. But before his passion, he will say to them: "When I sent you without purse, scrip, or sandals, did you lack anything?" They said: "Nothing.". "But now, he that hath a purse, let him carry it, and likewise the scrip; and he that hath no sword, let him sell his cloak, and buy one." It means that that particular counsel was not valid in all circumstances. On the other hand, the exhortation to detachment is valid forever.
The first gift they bring from Jesus is peace, and he recommends them to keep it for themselves in case it is not received. Then he has to heal the sick. Only thirdly can they proclaim that the kingdom is at hand. It is good that they receive their livelihood, but they should not go from house to house as to make propaganda or to create a group of opinion or power.
Luke is very attentive to the disciples' detachment from worldly ambition: twice he writes that Jesus tells the Twelve that authority is service, and he is the only evangelist to record these words of theirs: "So likewise you also, when you have done all that you were commanded to do, say, 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done all that we ought to do."
With this preparation, the disciples go and subdue even the demons. Jesus sees Satan fall like lightning. They return full of joy, and Jesus assures them that nothing can harm them. But he tells them not to rejoice because of the outcome, but because they have been chosen by God and are promised his eternal gratitude.
The homily on the readings of Sunday XVI
The priest Luis Herrera Campo offers its nanomiliaa small one-minute reflection for these readings.