Trusted to make a difference: Sunday reflection
Posted: Thu, 08 Jul 2021 14:22
We don't often realise the level of trust Jesus placed in his disciples when he sent them out. Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy reflects on the message of trust, love and confidence in the Gospel for 15th Sunday of Year (Mark 6: 7-13). Image: Bernadette Lopez via qumran2.net
In the context of rejection and apparent failure in his home community of Nazareth, our Gospel today shows Jesus sending his disciples out on active mission. He refuses to listen to the negativity around him and opts for a positive move: calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits (Mk 6:7). One could argue that, as God, Jesus does not need 'help' from this group of 'amateurs': none of them had been to seminary or studied theology. The apostles were a group made up of fishermen, a tax collector, a religious zealot and one who seems to be good in looking after the common good. Through living with Jesus, they see that they can make a difference.
The gift of incarnation sees Jesus working with others, just as Yahweh did in the stories of creation in the Book of Genesis. In this early example of work experience, the apostles are given the chance to work together and root out evil—they are given the chance to make the world a better place. Despite their relative inexperience, they receive the full TRUST of Jesus: it is a wonderful gift to have the trust of another. As we look back on our lives, we can recognise those times when good and strong mentors have given us their trust—we have felt valued and appreciated and our work has actually improved because of that. Personally, I am attracted to the encouraging views of the American hip hop musician and rapper, El-P:
We all want recognition and validation to an extent for our art, but greatness as a trade for decency is a risky proposition. In my life, I try to leave the people I encounter with the feeling that they have been respected and treated with warmth and appreciation.
El-P interviewed by Banksy for the Guardian's 'Culture' Sat 22 August 2015
Perhaps today is an opportunity to see just how encouraging we are; but in our relationships, do we seek to empower and build up, or do we prefer to be cynical and belittle others? As we see in the miracles of multiplication, Jesus is happy to accept what others can offer—even if they are your fish sandwiches!
Jesus wants to give all these people he has just started to minister with, a chance to shine. We must never forget that in this ministry of preaching, healing and care, Judas is as much a part of this positive outreach as Peter, James and John. We do not know who Judas was paired with, but the notion of going out 'two by two' is crucial: had Jesus sent them out as individuals, then they could have covered twice as much ground—more people cured and more people converted. However, in pairs, the apostles will have to learn how to make decisions together—they will have to learn the gift of compromise very quickly in their mission. These apostles become partners in evangelisation, showing that our faith can never be individualistic: in a sense we can see this 'two by two' ministry as a model for the domestic Church which has been highlighted and celebrated during the long months of lockdown.
The instructions given to them as they embark on ministry are very clear; Jesus does not make it easy as he commands, 'take nothing with you' (Mk 6:8). Jesus is calling for ultimate trust and for his disciples to rely on the famous Palestinian radical hospitality—there is a reality check there too, as Jesus warns them that they might not be made welcome. As this past year has shown us, life is not a bowl of cherries, where we run through the world singing 'Bind Us Together!' The life and ministry of Jesus and his friends show the reality of good ministry: the glorious highs and the difficult lows. Paradoxically, it is through problems and difficulties that we can actually enhance our ministry: our very brokenness and pain can be a way to salvation. As Henri Nouwen forcibly reminds us:
Jesus was broken on the cross. He lived his suffering and death not as an evil to avoid at all costs, but as a mission to embrace. We too are broken. We live with broken bodies, broken hearts, broken minds or broken spirits. We suffer from broken relationships.
Peter made broken promises to Jesus, and Judas broke the trust and confidence that Jesus placed in him in the most cruel of ways. Today's gospel is a strong reminder of that unconditional love that God has for the apostles, whom he sent out on mission; God has that same love and trust for each of us, as we move forward in mission. As the disciples embrace that trust, they can see the power of believing in miracles:
so they went out and preached that people should turn away from their sins. They drove out many demons, and rubbed olive oil on many sick people and healed them
In stark contrast to their experience in Nazareth, shown last week, the apostles were able to make a real difference in the lives of so many people. In turning away from evil, in showing true care and repentance, the community was able to share the depth of the gospel.
At the end of this mass your Deacon will proclaim 'go in peace to love and serve the gospel'; our presence at mass is not just an individualistic experience of PRIVATE prayer, rather we gather as a faith-filled COMMUNITY, eager to make a difference. As we leave in that peace of God, we are commissioned and trusted to continue to make a difference in our world today. As Jesus showed his trust and confidence in this friends, he offers that same love and trust to each of us, as we try bring that care.
You are fully blessed, so today please bask in that love and be the change you want to see; again Nouwen reminds us:
You are the beloved daughter or son of God. Can you believe it? Can you hear it not only in your head through your physical ears but in your gut, hear it so that your whole life can be turned around? Go to the scriptures and read: "I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have written your name in the palm of my hand from all eternity. I have moulded you in the depths of the earth and knitted you in your mother's womb. I love you. I embrace you. You are mine and I am yours and you belong to me." You have to hear this, because if you can hear this divine voice speak to you from all eternity, then your life will become more and more the life of the beloved, because that is who you are.
Henri Nouwen: Discernment – Reading the signs of Daily Life, 2013
Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB