08 July, 2012

Homily for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity (B) 2012

Mark 6:1-13

They went out and proclaimed that all should repent (Mark 6:12). 

This Sunday’s readings and prayers centre on the theme of vocation; vocation as a call from God intended in its broadest sense. In the collect, we have prayed for all God’s people in their vocation and ministry; while St Mark tells us of Jesus’ commissioning a specific category of people, to the Twelve. Likewise, the other readings offer the point of view of particular types of people and their singular response to God; a prophet, Ezekiel, and another Apostle, Paul. 

Mark’s reading has two close parallels in the gospels of Luke and Matthew, but each version of this story highlights different aspects of Jesus commissioning. Mark seems to focus his attention on the matter of authority and power through the use of symbols. Jesus commands the Twelve to take nothing for their journey except a staff (Mark 6:8) and sandals. In both Matthew and Luke’s account the Twelve are specifically told not to do so. 
On a practical level, a staff can be used for self-protection, and for support along the journey on which the Twelve are sent. But above all for the evangelist, a staff is a sign of authority, and the power entrusted by Jesus himself. The sandals are a symbol of the itinerant ministry of the Twelve; a pilgrimage from out of the wilderness of the world. Indeed, both staff and sandals portray the Twelve as a Passover-people, who are ready to go out of slavery, following God’s directions. And so, Mark draws a link between the story of the Twelve and books Exodus and Numbers where both Moses and Aaron carry staves, and act in the power of God. 

The evangelist tells us that the Twelve are summoned (not just “called” as our translation says) with authority by Jesus, and then they are sent by him as ones having authority and power, while still being completely dependent on God’s gracious Providence; a staff, a pair of sandals but neither money, nor a back-up plan for the journey. 
Moreover, because their authority is not their own, but a sharing in Jesus’ ministry, they are sent two by two (Mark 6:7); not as single individuals who could be misunderstood to be themselves the Messiah, but as a team that can bear better witness to the truth of the Gospel. Two by two they went out as a sign of that collegiality and mutual support that are indispensable for preaching the Gospel effectively. 
They went out and called the world to repentance, to turn around from its self-centred and self-destructing ways and to reorient itself towards God revealed in Jesus Christ. This was their vocation, the vocation of the Twelve who became known as the ones who were sent, or the Apostles.

What about our vocation then?
What about the vocation and ministry of all God’s people mentioned in the collect? 
Some of us have been called to a specific type of service in the Church and with it have received a limited share in the power entrusted by Jesus to his Apostles. As the bishops say in the Book of Common Prayer at the ordination of priests Take thou Authority to preach the Word of God, and to minister the holy Sacraments in the Congregation.
However, all of us are summoned by Jesus and sent out in some form or another for to proclaim the message of the Gospel in our lives with words and actions. What’s more we are all called to become God’s pilgrim people, a Passover-people, who journeys out of slavery through the power that Christ entrusted to his Church.

I hope you do remember this booklet, Way of Life, and I hope you are using it regularly within your devotional life. It may just be that it will help you discover your specific vocation, your specific summon from Jesus; and to grow in mutual support and collegiality of the Church.
What is certain is that our common vocation is to abide in the faith and authority that Jesus entrusts to his Church through the Apostles and their successors; and from within this Church call the world to turn around and reorient itself towards God. Only in this way, our ministry can be effective. 
If we decide to do away with collegiality and mutual support; if we take with us a back-up plan and snigger at the thought of Divine Providence; if we willingly refuse to minister from within the Church; if we set ourselves up as our own messiahs then all our efforts –however well meant–will fail.
They went out and proclaimed that all should repent
(Mark 6:12).

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