Gospel Reflection 15 Jul - SVD INM - India Mumbai Province

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Gospel Reflection 15 Jul

Fifteenth Sunday of Year B [Mk 6:7-13]

15 July 2018

The Mission of the Twelve

Readings: (1) Amos 7:12-15 (2) Eph 1:3-14

1.  Theme in brief

Our faithfulness to Jesus’ mission

2.  Focus Statement:   

Jesus constantly sends us with a mission to call people for repentance, to fight against evil and to work for total healing of human persons and wants that we fulfil his mission with a spirit of detachment to material possessions and total trust in God’s providence.

3.  Explanation of the text

If we attentively read Mark’s gospel, we come know how Jesus carefully prepares his disciples from the beginning with the intention of sending them out eventually as missionaries about which we hear in today’s gospel text. First of all, he calls the first ones among them at the Sea of Galilee (1:16-20) to be his partners in establishing God’s Kingdom or God’s Rule over human hearts (1:15); then he calls them to "be with him" (2:14); that is, to remain in close companionship with him. His intention is to send them out eventually to proclaim the message of the Kingdom (3:13-14) with the power that flows from their intimacywith him. Now comes the moment when he really begins to send them out with specific instructions about what to take, what not to take, where to stay, what to do and how to respond when they face rejection (6:8-11).
Thus, among his many disciples Jesus chooses the Twelve (6:7) who represent the twelve tribes of (Old)Israel, indicating their role as founders of New Israel, namely, the Church. They will be called "apostles"(6:30), which means those who are "sent out" with a special commission, to represent another person (that is, Jesus) and to accomplish his work. Jesus sends out the twelve two-by-two (6:7) because, according to Jewish law, two are needed for a testimony to be considered valid (Deut 17:6). This perhaps indicates also the community dimension of mission work that requires a team spirit and mutualcollaboration as a striking witness to the world.
We are surprised to notice in today’s passage, instead of instructing the apostles what should they preach, Jesus emphasizes more on how to behave during their missionary journey. That shows, for him, their life’s testimony is more important than their words. He instructs them to acquire a spirit of detachment and rely more on God’s power than worldly power that comes from material possessions. He does not allow them to take even basic necessities like bread, bag, money and two tunics. The only things he allows them are a staff, sandals and one tunic (6:8-9). These instructions are not to be taken literally. Their inner sense is this: the apostles must put their trust in God to provide for their needs and also in the hospitality of people to whom they are sent. The requirement for not moving form one house to another (6:10) may be to prevent them from seeking their own physical comfort and not focussing on the primary purpose of their mission. They are not supposed to be distracted by trivial matters. Shaking off the dust from their feet refers to the custom (prevalent among the Jews) of purifying their feet of contamination as they enteredPalestine from a Gentile territory (6:11). In simple terms it implies severing of fellowship with somebody. If people refuse to welcome them, Jesus tells them to go somewhere else without forcing their message or service on such people.
At the end, today’s gospel tells us clearly about the purpose (mission) for which the apostles are sent: (1) to proclaim the necessity of repentance or change of heart in order to experience God’s rule over human heart and society; (2) to wage a war against the kingdom of Satan; that is, to fight against evil forces (symbolized by Satan or demons) and to liberate people from their clutches; and (3) to bring holistic healing to those who are sick or are suffering in various ways (6:12-13). Jesus has already made it clear that repentance (that is, a change of heart) is a necessary requirement for experiencing the closeness of God’s loving rule (his Kingdom) in the very first words of his preaching ministry (Mk 1:15). Now the apostles are sent out to preach about this requirement so that God’s rule comes into their hearts. Though nowhere in the four gospels it is mentioned that Jesus himself anointed the sick with oil in his healing ministry, it is clear that the apostles used the ancient method of curing illnesses by applying oil on the sick, since people believed in its curative qualities. Hence, anointing with oil became a medium of restoring health of the sick in the early Church, which is continued till today.

4.  Application to life                     

Jesus willed that his mission on earth should be continued; hence, he chose the Twelve for this purpose and called them "apostles" (3:13). Today’s gospel tells us that each one of us is called not only to be a disciple but also to be an apostle. As disciples we are followers of Christ; but as apostles we are not only followers but also evangelizers. Today’s gospel makes us conscious of the fact that by baptism itself we are called to represent Christ and his values as his ambassadors or envoys. Today, he reminds us that following him does not mean just going to church and saying our daily prayers but also being faithful to his mission. We are sent by him with the following commission: (1) to preach repentance, that is, to tell others by our words and deeds that all of us are constantly in need of reform and conversion; (2) to cast our demons, that is, to fight against the evil, sinful, unjust and ungodly ways of the world; and (3) to heal the sick, that is, to alleviate pain, suffering, sorrow and misery from the lives of people around us. Missionwork is not the work of just the selected few, but is our baptismal call. Hence, to be a Christian is to be a missionary.
Today we should realize that the more we stay with Jesus through prayer and participation in the Sunday Liturgy, the more we should become conscious of our mission of being sent out. We should not forget that originally the disciples were called by Jesus to remain with him with the purpose of sending them out for mission work later on (Mk 3:13-14). Everyday and in ordinary circumstances of life Jesus sends us out to preach about the constant need of transformation in one’s personal life and society, to oppose evil and to be concerned about holistic healing. Of course, this list is not exhaustive. We can add more aspects of the mission mentioned in other parts of the gospel, especially service to the poor and the marginalized. Do we feel and think that wherever we are – in church, field, workplace, marketplace, school or home – we are Christ’s envoys or representatives? We are like Christ’s hands to raise those who are fallen; his feet to go in search of the lost sheep; his ears to listen to the woes of the suffering and the lonely; and his tongue to comfort and encourage those who are sad, disappointed, sick, lonely and depressed. There are so many sick people who want somebody to listen to their pain and anxiety; there are old people who want somebody to talk to; and young people waiting for somebody who can show some interest in their struggles and aspirations.
Our first mission is to continually preach that people (including ourselves) are urgently in need of reform and a change in attitude that leads to change in action, of turning away from sinful ways and turning towards God so that God’s rule may come into their minds and hearts. Normally people resist change since it is painful and disturbing. It is natural for people to think that they should be left alone without being disturbed in their present style of life and way of thinking. Repentance does not mean only from grave sins such as adultery and murder. There are so many negative attitudes (to which we are habituated) that result in resentment, bitterness, gossiping, judging harshly, demanding, shouting, arrogance, inconsiderate behaviour and authoritarianism. Secondly, our healing ministry is not confined to physical healing of illnesses alone, but also healing of psychological and emotional disorders. Continuing Jesus’ ministry of bringing holistic health of body, mind and soul is an integral aspect of mission.
The characteristic marks of a missionary are utter simplicity, complete trust in God, and a generosity of serving rather than demanding or expecting too much from others. Jesus wants that we should carry out our mission with maximum freedom and minimum burdens. Our first priority has to be God’s message (God’s Kingdom) and not money, material benefits, personal comforts or honour. As preachers of the gospel we need to have a spirit of detachment from material possessions or ‘comfort culture’ and trust in God’s care or providence rather than our own resources. Though we should be concerned about our normal and decent maintenance, according to Jesus’ instructions, we should not make too much fuss about where to stay, what to wear, what to eat and how much money we shall get. He wants his disciples to go counter to the mentality of the world: greed for possessions and money. Though money is essential for normal functioning, Christ’s instruction not to take money is a warning for us not to be money-minded in all our services. Money is one of the most common areas of conflict even in the noblest of spiritual activities. It has the potentiality of becoming the cause of divisions, fights, pride and envy. Who we are is more important than what we say. The values of God’s Kingdom are caught and not taught; people catch them more from our life’s witness (personal example) than from our teaching about those values.
Originally whatever meaning Christ’s manner of sending his Twelve apostles in pairs (two by two) might have had, today for us it is a pointer towards partnership and collaboration in our missionary activities. Many of the evangelizers or mission workers are lone-rangers and are happy to put up a one-man show. This type of ‘solo-singing’ or ‘solo dancing’ to one’s own tune is not the characteristic of a good missionary. We need to collaborate with others and work in partnership. The talk of so-called participatoryleadership in institutions and organizations sounds wonderful in workshops and seminars. When it comes to the practical, most of us are happy to fall back to the old mould in which we were brought up and are so used to. As the world advances, there is a tendency to become more and more individualistic even in our mission approach. We do not like others interfering in our field of activities. When this kind of sterile individualism makes an entry into religious communities, it makes its members live the gospel not in aradical manner, as they supposed to, but in a diluted manner.
Our cry for personal transformation or social change and fight against evil practices of the world are bound to be opposed by others. Faithfulness to our mission involves readiness to be rejected by even our own friends, family and community members. This will be a participation in Jesus’ own rejection as a prophet about which we heard in last Sunday’s gospel. It is true even today as it was in the days of Jesus that there are many people who reject the message of the gospel. Who wants to be converted? It isdisturbing. People normally think they are alright with their present way of life and thinking pattern and don’t like to be disturbed. Worst opposition and rejection comes when we combat evil in society. That does not mean we should give up our prophetic mission of denouncing evil. In plain language what Jesus means when he says about shaking off the dust from one’s feet is not to waste our time and resources on those who are totally opposed or non-receptive to our message, but move on. We should remember that we are not sent to always entertain people but to preach repentance which calls for painful decisions.

5.  Response to God's Word

Am I faithful to the mission entrusted to my care by the Lord? How can I fulfil Christ’s mission to the world today? What have I done and what am I doing to alleviate the suffering, pain, sorrow and misery of the world and make it a better place to live? As parents, students, employers, employees, doctors, nurses, social workers, priests, religious, etc, what is our specific contribution to personal or social transformation, renewal of families and the Church, combating evil in society and restoring holistic health to those who are physically, mentally and spiritually ill? Which evil I would like to fight or oppose in this week? Can I pick up one area of pain and sorrow where I can render a healing touch? Am I money-minded to the extent of doing every service only for money? Do I trust in money more than God?

6.  A prayer

Send forth your messengers O Lord to proclaim your merciful love. Grant that we may be always conscious and faithful to our baptismal call to be sent out as apostles to continue your mission. Give us the courage to proclaim the constant need of reform and renewal in human society and the Church and their purification from all that is evil. Purify our motive so that we do our mission work with a spirit of detachment from worldly possessions and total trust in you.  Amen.

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