We are in ordinary time now. In the liturgies from Christmas until Pentecost we entered into all that God our Father has done for us, all that His Son has done for us in His birth, life, death, and resurrection. God has sent His Son among us not just to tell us that He loves us, but to share His very life with us. Now it is we who are sent, sent by the the Holy Spirit, who, because of Christ, the Father has sent to us.
In today’s Gospel account we reflect on that event in which Jesus summoned the Twelve and first sent them out into their surrounding world. The account is not about something that happened long ago, it is about something that is happening to us in our lives. God, you see, is sending us.
Being sent is a commission that occurs because of God’s initiative, not ours. Amos, about whom we heard in the first reading, protested that he was not a prophet. Said he: “I was no prophet, nor have I belonged to a company of prophets; I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. The LORD took me from following the flock, and told me to go and proclaim His word to the people of Israel.” God ignored Amos’ protests and sent him anyway. The mission was God’s project, not Amos’. In writing to the Ephesians St. Paul reminds them, and us with them, that we have been chosen by God, chosen to reveal His goodness and love to all those around us.
We are not here at Mass simply to save our own skins. We are here because we are called and chosen, called and chosen to receive God’s life and love here in this Eucharist…and then we are sent. Mass isn’t all about receiving; its about our sending.
Jesus sent his Apostles out in vulnerability. St. Mark tells us: “He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick— no food, no sack, no money in their belts.” Jesus came among us in vulnerability. He was born among us humbly and powerless…in an animal stable. He died among us naked and powerless nailed on a cross. The Apostles were to live in that same vulnerability, that poverty of resources, so that it is clear their accomplishments are due to God’s activity not theirs. We, too, like the Apostles go to those around us in humility, in the simplicity of St. Francis of Assisi. The only power we have is the power of love. Our message is not ours… it is God’s.
We approach others in mutual, shared living. We give and receive our life experiences in our exchanges with those of others. The Apostles were charged to spend time with those to whom they were sent. They were to live in solidarity with their hosts. Ours is not an imperialistic religion; ours is a religion of offering and sharing. In humility and without dominating power we offer to others in solidarity what our faith has given us.
This requires staying power. Jesus told his Apostles to stay with those they met. They were not to go from place to place. They were not to go to those people who made things comfortable for them. No, they were to remain committed to their mission, committed to those whom they encountered.
Being humble, and poor in our resources, we need to find our strength in our community of faith. Ours is a commonly shared faith; we do not belong to “me and Jesus” religion, we belong to a “we and Jesus” family of faith. I am not saved because I have chosen Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I am saved because Jesus my Lord and Savior has chosen me. In baptism He has given me a name; I am a significant, named person in His family. In confirmation He has given me a purpose. Like the disciples who were filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and sent out into the world, you and I with them have been filled with that same Holy Spirit. You and I with them are sent out into our surrounding world… never alone, always with others.
The world we live in leads us to believe that everything we need is within our own power to grasp and achieve. Happiness, we are told, lies within us. “In America you can be anything you want to be if only you work for it.” Bookstore shelves buckle under the weight of self-help works. Subtly they replace God-help books. The truth is that God has sent His Son to save us. God did not send us His Son simply to show us how we can save ourselves. Besides, when we try to do it ourselves we don’t do such a good job of it.
Our religion and our faith are not solitary and confined to our selves alone. My faith, and yours as well, is shaped and formed by the faith of others. My faith comes to me through a community, our Community of Faith. Likewise, in that community, my faith contributes to the faith of others and becomes a part of the faith of others. Catholicism is a problem for many because it calls us to a faith that is both communal and individual. Our faith community shapes and forms the individual and the individual contributes to the form and shape of our communal Family of Faith. We do not make our family of faith – God makes it and gives it to us in His Christ. The Church is not simply another human institution. It comes to us from God.
Each one of you here in our Communion of Faith is special to God. You have a divine purpose, a God-given purpose. Each of you in your own way stand in the shoes of the Apostles and you bear with them God’s commission; you have a share in Christ’s mission. You can bring good news to others, others who are awash in bad news. You can drive out their demons, their demons of self-rejection, of inferiority, and lack of belief in themselves.
At the end of today’s Gospel we hear St. Mark reporting: “So they went off and preached repentance. The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” Many whom you know, or will yet know, are emotionally and spiritually sick. They feel degraded; they feel defeated. You can anoint them with what the bible calls “The Oil of Gladness.”
So you see that the mission of the Apostles is your mission. And just as Christ’s power and love went with them so, too, will Christ’s power and love accompany you. And always remember, this is God’s project, not yours. Remember also those words St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “We have been chosen by God, chosen to reveal His goodness and love to all those around us.”
Receive Jesus now in Holy Communion… and then take Him with you into the world around you.
About Charles Irvin
Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”