Just a Thought.
The Gospels of this Sunday and next are dedicated to the mission that Jesus entrusts to the ‘Twelve’ in the course of His preaching. This sending out of the ‘Twelve’ is recorded, not just in Mark, which we have today (Mk 6: 7-13). It’s recorded in two other Gospels as well: Matthew (10:1-14) and Luke (9:1-6; 10:4-11). The central message for each evangelist is the sending of the apostles by Jesus. To do what? To proclaim the Good News of what the miracles they have seen and the teaching that they have heard. This is their mission. To be effective and dependent upon His providence to sustain them, they must not feel insecure or encumbered by superfluous possessions. They were to travel like arrows with the message of the Lord. They were to have none of the world’s version of security to weigh them down on the road. They were to live their lives with the greatest simplicity. Preoccupation with material things would inhibit their work and limit their freedom. This of course, can be true in our own lives.
At the moment of their departure, Jesus gives them precise instructions concerning the manner of living incumbent on missionaries of the Gospel and the way they must behave towards their hearers. The Lord’s instructions indicate a certain urgency about their mission. It seems a little open ended. You sense they will stay as long as the Holy Spirit inspires them and dependent on how they are received. They are not to tarry too long. Others villages must be evangelized too. The mission of the ‘Twelve’ was given to them directly by Jesus. He had been training them for this moment, now he sends them out to “preach” and to “heal” to “cast out unclean spirits” to ‘Proclaim the Kingdom of God.” This is the same ministry we see in the life of Jesus. The Apostles must be Christ-like in their missionary activity. This was to be the enduring mission of the Apostles and the Church after Jesus had returned to the Father. The Apostles were to be the Lord’s voice, His healing hands, His feet to accompany humanity. The Apostles in their turn would (through apostolic succession) pass it on through time to future generations of believers — to you and to me. Through our baptism, we belong to a Church sent to others, we are all constituted witnesses of Christ in our day to day work, our day to day lives. By nature, through our baptism we are called to be missionaries wherever we are, whatever we do. The question we must ask ourselves is: “What do we contribute to the mission of the Church — to Jesus’ mission?”
Saint Therese of Lisieux said: “If God doesn’t have your heart, He has nothing.” Does he have your heart? Does he have mine? We need to think about that. We must be vigilant to detect drift and minimal faith practice. Going to Mass and not feeling the immense privilege of the miracle of the grace, love and eternal life in the Lord’s Presence in Holy Communion. In the rush of life, not putting in the time or personal effort, sincerity and abandonment to God’s Will in our prayers. Blessing ourselves with holy water and not remembering our baptism when we were adopted into the Trinity as children of God. Ritual rather than a thriving love. Maybe we need to deepen our friendship with Our lord; in prayer, in scripture, in Eucharist, in lifestyle. One thing is certain, we should always keep these thoughts in the forefront of our minds. We should love our God “With all our hearts, with all our strength, with all our minds” and then we will be able to respond to our Lord’s command “To love our neighbour as ourselves.” With Saint Therese we must give all our heart to God, as we sing in a hymn. all that I am, all that I do, all that I’ll ever have I offer now to You. Nothing held back, everything in God’s hands. That’s the way to travel in the Lord’s service.
There is a clear message in today’s Gospels for the apostles and since we are all apostles (believers sent by God to witness): emulate the simplicity of Our Lord and trust in the Lord to provide. “Seek you first the Kingdom of God. Everything else will be given to you”. Our main concern as Christians, should not be material things, but the values of the Gospel. It’s one thing to enjoy the things of this world, it’s another to be enslaved by them. Now simplicity doesn’t require us to be naive. It requires us to work hard, provide for our needs, care for our families, and yes, we should certainly try to contribute to the economic life of the church, its wider needs and the community in which we live. But it also requires us to share with the hungry and the poor, to put their need before our own. So simplicity is a spirit of discernment: detachment from our excessive need and a sensitive attachment and greater generosity to the need of others. Simplicity is a modest creature too; it recoils from the “big splash”, has no time whatsoever for ostentation or vulgar display. Christian simplicity is more concerned with values rather than possessions; with people rather than things, with anonymous kindness rather than ostentation. “Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice.”
Saint John Chrysostom said “Riches are not forbidden, but pride of them is” there’s nothing wrong with having material blessings, our attitude to them what we do with them is another matter. This leads us to focus on our own mission and that is:-
Most of us have to be apostles where we are; whether we’re rich or poor, young or old. We go on mission not necessarily by moving, but by being. We do it as parents or workers, or students, or neighbours. We don’t have to go abroad to be missionary people. Yes, a lot of much needed work and evangelisation must be done in other lands. But whatever missionary work is done abroad by others is largely dependent on the missionary work that’s done at home, by us. Our missionary work very often supports their missionary work. We are Church. We are One Body. We have experienced the gratitude of those who have made missionary appeals in our parishes. Our support for Aid to the Church in Need is a great blessing.
Of course we are human, and because our faults and failings are especially evident to our family and our neighbours, not everything we do will necessarily have a missionary impact. We must not become despondent with what we see as a lack of success. While perfection may always elude us we remain called by the Lord for a definite purpose: to be firm in our commitment and give what witness we can as circumstances allow which, with God’s help and by our example, may well lead others to the Lord. The more we try to live by faith and love, the more missionary we become. We are God’s leaven in the dough of life around us.
The Gospel is spread because it is lived and it is, we, who spread it by living it in our own time for future generations. All of us, to one degree or another are already doing this and doing it remarkably well. Let’s keep it up! But let’s also be gently challenged and encouraged by today’s Gospel. Let us ask St. Therese to help us to aspire to the words “If God doesn’t have our heart, He has nothing”, that such effective simplicity becomes the motif of lives of service. Our witness is important because we may be the nearest that some people will ever come to the gospel. Let’s remember the Lord’s mandate: that every living being should have the opportunity to hear His message. Let’s give Him our hearts and our service. Let us be uncomplicated and unfettered in our ways. Let us pray as so many of suffering Christians do, for the gradual ascendancy of God’s grace in our lives and the transformation of others to the good. To the day the Lord prayed that all will know the Father Who sent Him so that all may be one. Let us witness as we can for as long as the Lord’s gift of this life allows us. We can only do our best. I am sure, with the unfailing help of the Lord Who called us to serve in His Kingdom, we will stand (more probably kneel) before Him and hear the Lord’s words: “Well done good and faithful servant’.