After this, the Lord appointed seventy-two others, and sent them on ahead of Him, two by two, into every town and place where He Himself was about to come. (Luke 10: 1).
The first verse of Luke’s last discourse about mission tells us the meaning of mission: it brings salvation to all people. Salvation is Son’s countenance that reveals to us humans, our hidden identity. The One who is always coming does come by means of the disciples’ witness who has His same countenance.
The evangelist Luke, St Paul’s fellow worker, has assimilated Paul’s spirit. In fact, he relates three of Jesus’s apostolic speeches: one explains Jesus’ ministry (4: 1430); the other the apostles (9: 16) and the third that of the seventy-two disciples (10: 1ff). The three speeches throw light on each mission on behalf of the brethren, the mission of the twelve, as well as that from all the others originate. Moreover, Luke follows the Gospel with the Acts of the Apostles: what Jesus started saying and doing (Acts 1: 1) is what, after Him, the apostles keep doing and saying in every time and place.
After this: the Mission comes, after what was said in the previous text (Luke 9: 5762). In it, Jesus speaks of the three gifts that make His disciples similar to Him: freedom from property of things, people, and Himself, as the fruit of a love that overcomes every egoism and slavery. In order to give witness to Him, it is necessary first to have the Son’s Spirit.
The Lord appointed seventy-two other disciples: the Lord, then, in the manner He had called the twelve, singles out, through the community, the other witnesses of His Resurrection (Acts 1: 22). According to the ancient point of view, 72 are the peoples of the earth: the Mission is towards all. Whoever excludes even one, is excluding the Son who made Himself the last of all. Every disciple is an apostle, and every apostle is a disciple. A disciple is anyone who learns from the Son, who is such because of being sent to the brethren. These 72 are others, but not different from the first twelve. One is the mission of all: that of the Son who knows the Father’s love.
He sent them: as the Father sends the Son, in the same way, the Son sends whoever is like Himself. Love makes him an apostle: it sends him outside himself, towards the brethren, to fulfil his own identity as a son.
Two by two: Jesus sends them two by two not only for mutual help: we must be at least two to witness love. Two is the seed of community and victory over the sin of loneliness. No apostle may be alone. Only fraternity witnesses to the common Father. The communion among brethren is the fulfilment of the Gospel and its only credible testimony.
Ahead of Him: the apostles are messengers sent ahead of the appearance of the One who comes to judge the world. It is Son’s face, the same as the Father, whose judgment is tenderness and compassion for all who are lost. The messenger’s testimony carries, wherever it arrives, the Lord’s salvation.
The whole universe belongs to the Lord, who gives everything as a gift and gives Himself wholly to all. His coming is everywhere; only human beings can welcome Him because they are able to answer love with love. (S.F.)