“Do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20)

 Most of us like to achieve something in life. When we start something and then finish it, we look with satisfaction upon what we have achieved, especially if what we have achieved is clearly visible and measurable. We have something to do; we get it done, and we are pleased when it is done. The opposite is also the case. We have something hanging over us that needs to be done and we can’t seem to get down to doing it. It bothers us because it is not done.

At the end of today’s gospel reading, we find the seventy-two disciples that Jesus had sent out returning to him after a very successful period of mission; they had done what they had been sent to do. Jesus had sent them out to proclaim the gospel and to cure the sick. They returned back rejoicing, saying, ‘Even the devils submit to us when we use your name’. They are clearly delighted at what they have achieved. Jesus acknowledges their success, ‘Yes, I have given you power to tread underfoot the whole strength of the enemy’. Yet, he goes on to tell them that they are to rejoice not so much in their achievements but in something else, ‘Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you’, he says, ‘rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven’. Yes, they can take satisfaction from their achievements, but there is a greater reason for being joyful, and that is their relationship with God, through Jesus, and the heavenly destiny to which that relationship is leading. Jesus moves them away from overvaluing achievement, no matter how impressive, towards valuing relationship, especially the relationship with God that their following of Jesus makes possible.

The seventy-two represent us all, and what Jesus says to them about valuing relationship over achievement he says to all of us. I had a friend who died a few years ago. Her name was Eileen. She had a disease for most of her adult life which confined her to bed. As time went on, she could do less and less for herself, and she became more and more dependent on the nursing staff in the nursing home, and on the many friends who visited her on a regular basis. There was a time in her life when she could do things, and she achieved and accomplished a lot. However, a time came when she could do nothing, and all she had was her relationships. Among those relationships, her relationship with the Lord was the most important in her life. Her faith, her relationship with the Lord, was as strong as her body was weak. Her faith was an inspiration to all who visited her, and people came away from visiting her with a sense of having received more from her than they gave to her. As well as her relationship with the Lord, her relationship with her friends was extremely important to her. In fact, she did not make a great distinction between her relationship with the Lord and her relationship with her friends. She recognized the Lord in all the friends that came to see her. She regularly said to people who visited her, ‘I was feeling a bit low today; the Lord must have sent you to see me’. I thought of her as I was reflecting on the words of Jesus to the seventy-two at the end of today’s gospel reading, ‘Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven’.

Most of us are fortunate enough to live reasonably full and active lives for the greater part of our time on this earth. However, a time will probably come for many of us when we won’t be able to do much, if anything at all. At such times, even though our ability to achieve and accomplish will have past, our relationships, hopefully, will not have passed. They will endure and will become more important to us than ever. In particular, our relationship with the Lord will endure. That is the one reality that can never be taken from us. That particular relationship endures to our very last breadth and, indeed, beyond into eternity.


Fr. Charles Chidiebere Mmaduekwe