‘Jesus went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out in pairs giving them authority over the unclean spirits.’ (Mark 6:6-7).
|Jesus and his twelve apostles, Catacombs of Domitilla, Rome.|
Last Sunday we have seen how the evangelist Mark highlights the contrast between Jesus’ extended family and the new family he gathers around himself. This second and very mixed group of people made up of his followers is the new model of family that Jesus establishes disregarding the usual bonds of blood and kinship; this family is the Church in her earliest form.
Today the gospel shows us how this new family of the Church is sent to evangelize, free, and heal; or in other words to bring repentance, hope, and renewal to the world. Just before the beginning of our passage we find Jesus going ‘about among the villages teaching’ (6:6). At the same time, Jesus summons his newly established family to have a share in his ministry as well so that they may have authority even over the spiritual world in his name. Like partners in the gospel, Jesus begins working with his disciples to evangelize, free, and heal.
From this moment the Twelve disciples assume a more active role in the story; they move from just following Jesus and watching what he does, to practice what they have learnt from him and bring hope to others by themselves. However, we should note that there are a few conditions for the Twelve to respect. First, the disciples must be wholly dependent on God for the success of their enterprise and personal wellbeing – therefore, they are told to carry only the bare essentials with them – secondly, the disciples must keep focused on the task of evangelization as the bigger picture greater than themselves; in order to do this the must work without dwelling too long on failures – therefore, they are told to move on quickly from places where they do succeed in their ministry.
We too are part of the Church family Jesus gathers around himself. So, if we apply these gospel verses to our own situations, what can they tell us about our common vocation?
First and foremost, I would suggest that they reinforce the idea that if we really are Christians, if we really are brothers and sisters bound together by the love of Christ, then we are also summoned by Jesus to do what he does. We are invited to share in his healing ministry according to our personal vocation; we are sent to free others from their demons and their troubles in his name; we are sent to spread the hope of the gospel to those around us. Just think; do you know people tormented by the demons of loneliness, illness, or addiction? Jesus is sending you to them.
Second, these verses tell us that we must be dependent on God at all times – something completely countercultural in our times when self-determinism and consumerism rule everything. As the first disciples were sent out poor and empty-handed, so we must realise that no material thing can ever do the work of evangelization for us – be that a fancy sound system, a worship band, or more money that we can shake a stick at. Our church initiatives must begin with God. We must be living affirmations that it is the power of Christ at work in us, the life of Jesus visible in us, which evangelizes people, not our own efforts. Just think; do you let the life of Jesus be visible in you, or does the way you live your life tell a different story? Jesus is calling you to let his power shire through you.
Thirdly, these verses tell us that we should not be afraid of failure. If we truly share in the ministry of Jesus, then we must be aware that we may be rejected just as he was rejected. In those circumstances we ought to move on to do better. Just think, do you take Church failures personally? Jesus is calling you to join in and not to count the costs.
In today’s gospel we see a miniature representation of the entire Church as Jesus summons and sends a group of Twelve disciples to share and further his ministry. Jesus does the same with all of us – like the Twelve we are sent to evangelize, free, and heal; this is our common vocation as Christians. As a response to this call we ought to ask ourselves, what am I going to do to lead others to Christ? What am I going to do to welcome others in his Church family?