15 July 2018
Some years ago I was visiting some friends when someone knocked at their door. The wife said ‘it is the Mormons’ and asked me to go out to them. After a brief discussion once they realised that I was a priest and not interested in converting to their church known officially as The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints [LDS] they left.
Missionary work is one of the key aspects of the LDS Church. Young men and women range in age from nineteen for men and twenty-one for women. They have more than 50,000 missionaries serving at all over the world. Today, every young man/woman that are both morally and physically capable of missionary work are expected to participate in a mission. LDS missionary work is performed in pairs. Just like in the gospel today when Jesus Christ sent out the 12 in pairs.
In the Catholic Church also people are invited to respond to the call, to be sent out on mission. Not only priests and religious but lay people too. Being sent on mission for Christians is always the initiative of God. It is he who calls and empowers us, though the Holy Spirit, to be effective advertisers or witnesses to him. It doesn’t depend on us, the mission is God’s but he uses us.
In the first reading today Amos who is a poor, unlettered, unsophisticated shepherd receives the call from God to leave the southern kingdom where he worked and go to the northern kingdom to denounce the social injustices and other offences committed by the wealthy against God’s covenant. He is told to go back to his birthplace by the high priest Amaziah. Who does Amos think he is, an uneducated man trying to address the rich, educated people? Amos’ reply is quite simple. He is called and sent by Yahweh. That is his only justification for doing what Yahweh asks of him. He intends to be faithful to this.
The gospel is also about those who are called by Jesus and sent out by him to witness to his message. This passage comes immediately after the verses when Jesus was rejected by his own townspeople of Nazareth. He doesn’t get discouraged but sends the Twelve elsewhere.
Like Amos, the Twelve are conscious of being chosen by Jesus. They don’t go on their own initiative-they are sent by Jesus. It is always a response to a commission from God. Jesus doesn’t keep the action of spreading the Good News to himself, but summons the Twelve and shares with them his authority, sending them out in pairs. Two was the minimum number of witnesses required for valid testimony according to Jewish law, suggesting that the disciples did not preach and do mighty deeds for their own self-promotion, but only as witnesses to Jesus and his authority. They are the first of many to be sent.
The missionaries or witnesses of the Word are sent out in poverty. They are to rely on God by being told to travel light, to take only the minimum for their essential needs. The mission has to be carried out in simplicity and poverty. We must be careful not to take these words too literally. If we do it would mean that modern day missionaries and in fact those of us who are Christians and so missionaries too would be living with the absolute minimum. So what does Jesus mean? What matters is the meaning of the instruction, not the letter. Jesus means that nothing must disturb the proclamation of the kingdom. It means relying on God’s power and grace
Because of our baptism we are all missionaries. And so this text applies to us. A good question to ask might be: is there anything in my life that prevents me from giving time to God or witnessing to him in my daily activities? For example, I could be so involved with my work, my computer or video games that I don’t have time to pray or even go to Church on Sunday. These could take up the time I might need to visit a sick relative or a needy person. Where do we spend our time or our money? The focus of our time or money will tell us what our God is and what is important in our life.
Mission is aimed at the total person; in the gospel Jesus sends out his disciples not only with the call to repent, to convert people but to heal them from sickness and all powers of evil. The human person is to be saved in the concrete realities of his/her existence. Those of us who are Christians and therefore disciples of Jesus are given the same mandate as the Twelve of today’s gospel. We can cure others by our love, encouragement, affirmation, forgiveness, acceptance of their failures etc. We can cast out devils of fear, anxiety, worry, guilt by the way we are there for them when they need us. Welcome and hospitality have great healing powers. We may find it hard to accept this and it will seem impossible if we think the power comes from us. But if we are more conscious of being chosen and sent by God as was Amos and the Twelve we can claim the power of God to fulfill the calling he gives us.
At the end of the Mass we are sent out to share with others the gifts we have received from the Lord. Here the Lord forgives our sins, speaks his word to us, and nourishes us with the food of the Eucharist.
Glory be to him whose power at work in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. Glory be to him from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen.
Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA