Our sacred Christian authors will have more than a few problems if they ever overhear our Eucharistic greeting, "The Lord be with you." From today's gospel pericope it's clear the only greeting they expect to hear from a follower of Jesus is, "The Lord is with you."
We know from Jesus' first public words that his whole ministry revolves around proclaiming God's kingdom: the presence of God working effectively in our daily lives. So it shouldn't surprise us to discover when Luke's Jesus sends out his seventy-two apostles, they're to deliver the same message: "The kingdom of God is at hand for you."
Proclaiming God's presence is the primary task of all other Christs. Our lives should be centered on this message. Everything else is peripheral. "Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals, and greet no one along the way .... Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you" Failure is never an excuse to terminate our proclamation. Rejection simply provides an opportunity to proclaim God's presence to other people in other places. Yet, as Jesus emphatically states, just because someone refuses to recognize God's presence doesn't remove God's presence. "The kingdom of God is still at hand, even for those who refuse to acknowledge it."
Seeing things other people overlook is at the heart of our Scriptures, both Hebrew and Christian. In today's first reading, for instance, Third Isaiah sees something in the ruins of Jerusalem which most of his fellow Jews never notice. Once the prophet succeeds in getting his listeners to rebuild the Holy City, it will become a source of strength for all Israelites. "As nurslings you shall be carried in her arms, and fondled in her lap; as a mother comforts her child, so will she comfort you; in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort. When you see this, your heart shall rejoice ... And Yahweh's power shall be known to his servants."
Yet, as we know from Jesus' initial proclamation, the discovery of God's presence comes at a price. He refers to that price as a "repentance:" a complete change in one's value system. What we once thought important we now push to the outskirts of our lives; what was once on the outskirts we now pull to the center. For Third-Isaiah, the rebuilding of Jerusalem, not people's comfort, is a priority. For Jesus, relationships, not wealth, status, or security is to be the focus of our lives. Only when we relate correctly with those around us, will God's presence become evident.
That's why Paul zeroes in on "the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" in our Galatians pericope. As we've heard over the last few weeks, some in the Apostle's Galatian community have traded their imitation of Jesus for the observance of the 613 Mosaic laws. Keeping rules and regulations is far easier and less messy than giving oneself for others. The latter entails a death which many refuse to accept. There's no end to such a giving; it goes on for a lifetime; much more complicated that just being circumcised or refusing certain foods.
Paul is convinced that those who imitate Jesus must expect to suffer the same pain he experienced. When he states, "I bear the marks of Jesus on my body," he's not referring to the "stigmata." He's simply reflecting on the fact that the wounds - physical and psychological - he's suffered over the years for proclaiming Jesus' message are the same wounds Jesus received. Relating with others always comes at a cost.
Perhaps we've yet to even look for God's kingdom because our Eucharistic presiders haven't made it clear that God's working in our lives right here and now.