The Gospel today tells us how Jesus sent the Apostles out
in pairs to the surrounding villages to preach the Gospel.
The Apostles were at an important stage in their
apprenticeship; they had heard the teaching of Jesus and
they had seen him perform miracles and cast out demons and now it was time for them to put all this into practice.
You could call it work experience. It sounds as though they did well at it too; they did bring the Gospel to others and it seems as though they did cast out demons and cure some people. So they get top marks for their short probation.
The text today is sandwiched between the account of Jesus preaching in the Synagogue of Nazareth which we heard last week and then a report of how Herod was perturbed when he heard about the ministry of Jesus, at first thinking he was John the Baptist now risen from the dead. This gives Mark the opportunity to tell his readers just how John had been executed by Herod.
So all we know about the sending out of the Apostles in Mark’s Gospel is contained in this short paragraph. It is worth looking at it though because there are a couple of interesting details. Jesus tells them, ‘to take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no haversack, no coppers for their purses’.
This means they go out vulnerable; they don’t have the ordinary things a traveller would need. It means they are dependent on the people to whom they are sent and must rely on their generosity. Jesus understands quite well that by putting his Apostles at what seems at first to be a disadvantage it actually becomes the secret of their success.
If the Apostles had turned up at a village with a lot of gear, with money and whatever else they would ordinarily need for a journey they would be quite independent. They could pay for their digs and their food and would be free as to where they could go and to whom they would preach.
But without any of these things the Apostles are not free; they are utterly dependent on their hosts for accommodation, for food, for washing and for everything else. This means that they become very close to their hosts; it means that they have to be sympathetic to the situation of those they are living with; it means that they have to experience the lives and problems of the particular family.
This puts them in quite a different category from all the other wandering preachers who tended to be a fierce and very independent lot. The Apostles are in a position of dependency and this becomes the secret of their success. It means their message is more likely to be accepted and it means that they understand the sicknesses and troubles in the family of their hosts.
Jesus goes on to say, ‘If you enter a house anywhere, stay there until you leave the district. And if any place does not welcome you and people refuse to listen to you, as you walk away shake off the dust from under your feet as a sign to them.’
This is good advice. The longer they stay with one family the better; if that happens to be a poor family then it would not make a good impression if they then moved on to the house of someone who happened to be richer. No, it is much better if they stay in the one place sharing the lot of those who first extend hospitality to them.
Of course, if no one welcomes them then that is a sure sign it is better for them to move on to another village more open to their message.
The instructions Jesus gives them are good and by doing what Jesus tells them they meet with success and this affirms the Apostles and helps to prepare them for the time when they eventually have to do this work by themselves.
Things are a bit different today. We have established Churches and special houses for the priests to live in and the people support their ministry by their weekly offerings. But even today it is important that those who are engaged in ministry do not live a wildly different lifestyle from the people to whom they are ministering.
A year or so ago Pope Francis in his typically straightforward way told all the priests that they should have the smell of the sheep about them. After all, he said, no one would think a shepherd was very effective unless he smelled of his sheep.
We regard a life of simplicity as the hallmark of someone who is effective in spreading the Gospel. I think any of us would find it difficult to speak about our problems with someone who we felt was far above us socially or materially. It would also be harder to believe someone who was speaking about the Gospel if they did not share our everyday concerns.
Some Religious Orders focus on the rich and the powerful because they believe that it is through them that they can have the most influence on society at large. This may be a good thing. But it is not the way of our Order, the Salvatorians.
Our Founder specifically wanted us to work with the ordinary people of this world. He believed that it is in focusing on the vast majority of working people that we can achieve the most. I have to say that I feel happier as a member of such an Order rather than one that works mostly with the elite.
The main aim of the Salvatorians is to spread the Gospel as widely as possible and Father Jordan, our Founder, told us to proclaim the Word of God in a very simple and straightforward way so that every single person can understand it.
I think that this particular Gospel passage has great relevance for anyone who aims to bring the Good News to others. Of course, we know that is a task not confined to the clergy or to religious sisters and brothers. It is the job of every single member of the Church.
The message of hope from today’s Gospel is that we don’t have to communicate the Gospel in highfaluting or overly technical language. We will be far more effective if we just use ordinary words and simple concepts. We don’t have to have spent years of study before we can explain what Christ means; we can do it quite easily using concepts we already understand.
The crucial point in the text is that by doing things Jesus’ way the Apostles get close to the people, they understand their concerns and they share their life. There is no better way of communicating the love of God to the people around us than this.
Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
July 12, 2015
Fifteenth Sunday: Amos and Us–Everyday People
Called to Prophesy
Today’s first reading is from the Book of the Prophet Amos. Amos was quite different than most of the prophets we come upon in Hebrew Scriptures. He did not wear strange clothes like Ezekiel and Jeremiah. He was not a prophet throughout his life like Isaiah or Samuel. He did not even do strange prophetic actions like Elijah, Hosea and most the prophets.
Amos was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamore trees. These were every day type jobs for an every day sort of a guy. He lived just south of the border between the Kingdom of Judah and the Northern Kingdom, the kingdom of Israel. One day he received the message from God that he was to drop everything, cross the border into the Northern Kingdom, go to the holy city of the North, Bethel, and tell the people that they were facing destruction unless they changed their lives.
Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Mark 6: 7–13
Jesus summons the Twelve and sends them out two by two. He gives them power over unclean spirits, and instructs them to take nothing for their journey but a walking stick. He warns them about rejection: people will not always welcome them or listen to them. The disciples go out and preach repentance, drive out many demons, anoint the sick with oil and cure them.
Note that the English word “repentance” does not adequately convey the meaning of the Greek verb that Mark uses in his gospel (literally “to change the mind”). In Mark’s usage the word implies a prophetic call to interpret reality in a radically new way, as from blindness to sight. “Repentance” is at once a gift and the task of turning and surrendering to God in a way that embraces every aspect of life. A New Testament example of the reality to which the word points is the conversion experience of Paul. For Paul, that radical change of direction means to live with the mind and heart of Christ (1 Corinthians 2: 6–16).