Monday, 6 July 2015

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year B

Amos 7:12-15; Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6:7-13

The gospel is always simple and straightforward until you start thinking about it. The more you meditate on it the more interesting it becomes. So let's just meditate on the first sentence.

Jesus summoned the Twelve... .

Jesus stands conveniently at the head of this sentence as subject, which is precisely how he should stand in our lives. As a priest I often say to myself, and occasionally to others, 'How I wish more people would make more room in their lives for God and the things of God.' So many of us just seem to 'fit him in' somewhere convenient, so that he doesn't take up too much of the time we like to devote to our favourite preoccupations.

We note that Jesus summoned the Twelve. There is more than a hint of kingly authority in this word summoned. It basically means he brought them into his presence, he made them stand before him. Jesus summons us, too, in many ways. Most simply put he calls us to listen to, to believe, and then to live his word. If we do this we will find ourselves not only with him but in him (cf. Jn 14:17).

Jesus summoned the Twelve. These are the men he chose to draw close to him and become his special collaborators. They are not yet apostles. This will happen to them in the next few words when he begins to send them out. The word apostle, in fact, means those who are sent forth. But for now they are merely the Twelve and we do well to remember that because Jesus generally operates in exactly the same way in our lives. He summons us so that he might make us apostles.

... and began to send them out in pairs...

The word began gives us the sense of the ongoing work of Jesus and of the training of his Twelve. He began to send them out. As far as his own ministry on earth was concerned Jesus had now reached that moment when he was able to involve others in his saving work. He was making progress. As for the Twelve, they had now reached the point where Jesus could begin to send them out because they were making progress.

I like to picture, granted a little piously, the Lord standing with the Twelve kneeling before him. The subject standing before the object. And he might say to them: I ... send ... you.

It is very easy to overlook the significance of this simple transaction. I recall the priest who disobeyed the instructions of the Church in various liturgical matters 'out of loyalty to my people,' as he put it. This priest, and there are many like him, had simply forgotten who it was who sent him, who it was to whom he owed his loyalty. He had not been sent by the people. It was to Christ in the Church to whom he owed his loyalty and his obedience.

And this reflects on every member of the Church involved in the Apostolate. We serve in the name of the Church and not in the name of the people we serve. Any disobedience to the Church can never be justified out of 'loyalty' to the people.

Jesus sent them out in pairs... . The wisdom of this practice has been proven over the centuries. It gives courage to the apostles and in all sorts of ways tends to short circuit ministerial problems as well as promote ministerial growth.

As he sends them Jesus gives them a special gift which will ensure success in the mission. He gives them: authority over the unclean spirits.

One of the things I felt strongly inadequate about in the seminary, after having been for many years a school teacher with rather serious responsibilities, was that suddenly I had no clearly defined identity. I missed the identity which being a member of staff had given me and found myself suddenly 'de-authorised'. Upon ordination to priesthood, which included 'being sent', I regained, but in a new way, that sense of direction and authority. If anyone were to ask I could now say: Jesus sent me.

And finally, it was over the unclean spirits that Jesus gave the Twelve his own authority. What a world of horrible meaning are contained in these two words. Every conceivable evil, every human weakness and failure, and crime - all woundedness and sin - and the spirits who foment it.

Many times over the last three decades have I experienced this authority. It always leaves me a little speechless and greatly humbled. And you, too, every adult Catholic Christian is authorised to confront evil and to set people free.

If I had another ten minutes I would jump into a reflection on the Christian family which is the primary place for parents to exercise of this God-given authority. But I haven't, so I will conclude with the words of a hymn:

Go now you are sent forth,
To live what you proclaim;
To show the world you follow Christ 
In fact, not just in name.

Go now, you are sent forth
To walk the troubled earth.
To share your faith with all you meet
And prove your real worth.

Go now, you are sent forth
As God's ambassador;
By serving Christ in those we meet
We love him more and more.

Go now, you are sent forth
And Christ goes with you, too.
Today you help his kingdom come
In everything you do.

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