October 7, 2014
Dear brothers and sisters,
The good news this beautiful fall day is from Mark 6:6b-13.
He went around to the villages in the vicinity teaching. He summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick — no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave from there. Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them. So they went off and preached repentance. They drove our many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
What a powerful experience this must have been for the apostles. Jesus was so smart. He gave them authority to preach and to cure people of their demons. That would have been a very heady experience, potentially a kind of ego trip. However, Jesus made sure that they would be completely dependent on others for everything in preparing them to be dependent on God for everything when he was taken away from them. Jesus chose humble men to be his apostles and he wanted them to remain humble, placing others before themselves and taking no credit for themselves but acknowledging that it was God’s spirit acting through them to create the kingdom. This was a test of the extent to which they were willing to trust Jesus and to have faith in God’s providence.
Were they willing to be totally dependent on others, these men who had always made their own way in life? How closely had they been watching and listening to Jesus? Were they adequately prepared to be his emissaries? Were they able to teach as he had been teaching? Did they have confidence in the authority that Jesus had granted them, faith that could exorcise entrenched demons? To their credit they showed that they were true disciples, that they were up to the tasks for which they were commissioned. They were ready to share in Jesus’ mission.
This passage makes me ask myself if I am a true disciple. Am I ready to share in Jesus’ mission? Am I ready to undertake it confident in the authority he has given me? Am I willing to rely upon others instead of my own ego and resources, to be completely dependent on God’s spirit to provide what I need? Am I willing to use the gifts, the charisms, that God has given me to create the kingdom? Am I open to His call, His commission? These are not idle questions; I have to seriously consider and answer each one.
Moloney in The Gospel of Mark reminds me, “Thus, the Twelve are missionaries of Jesus only insofar as they respond to the initiative of Jesus, remain with him, recognize that their authority to preach and cast out demons is from him. They remain at all times ‘followers’ of Jesus.” That’s the humility that Jesus insists upon from his true disciples. Moloney adds, “Without him, they can do nothing.” Jesus has to be first and foremost in my mind and in my heart as I set out upon the work he has commissioned me to perform. How do I know I’m doing that? It happens to me in prayer. I can feel the Holy Spirit fill my heart, calm my spirit, inspire me to action. It feels like a tingling and often brings tears to my eyes. It’s an indication for me that the Spirit is within me and surrounding me at the same time as if there is no boundary, no separation. I can imagine that’s the experience the apostles had as well on their mission.