At that time the Lord appointed seventy-two others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way. Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’ If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his payment. Do not move about from one house to another. [Luke 10:1-12, 17-20]
Jesus now sends out another seventy (or, according to some manuscripts, seventy-two) disciples to “every town and place” on his itinerary, charged with a mission similar to the one he earlier gave the Twelve. The number seventy-two may be an allusion to the descendants of Noah who were founders of nations prior to the scattering of Babel. In any case, the mission appears to show the universal thrust of Christ’s mission. Jesus’ instructions, moreover, have a ring of urgency to them. Universality and zeal will always be part of the Church’s missionary activity: “Today, all Christians, the particular [local] Churches and the universal Church, are called to have the same courage that missionaries of the past, and the same readiness to listen to the voice of the inspired Spirit” (John Paul II, Redemptoris mission, 30).
Those who followed Jesus and received a call from him made up a large number of disciples. Of these, we know the names of few, but among them must have been some who were with him right from the time of his baptism by John until his ascension; for example, the Joseph known as Barsabbas, and Matthias (see Acts 1:23), and Cleophas and his companion, to who the Risen Christ appeared on the way to Emmaus (see 24:13-35). From among these many disciples, our Lord chooses out about seventy, and he requires of them (as he did of the apostles) total detachment and abandonment to divine providence.
“Such should be the confidence the preacher places in God that even if he is not provided with the necessities of life, he is convinced that they will come his way. This will ensure that worry about providing temporal things for himself does not distract him from providing others with eternal things” (St Gregory the Great, Homiliae in Evangelia, 17).
The disciples rejoice at having played a part in Christ’s mission and at having seen its power (V. 17). However, our Lord asks them to look deeper: the fact that God has chosen them in what calls for real celebration: “Don’t doubt it: you vocation is the greatest grace our Lord could have given you. Thank him for it” (St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way, 913).