Jesus 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.
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. The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
~ Mark 6:7-13
The readings today all speak of the Christian’s prophetic vocation. In Amos, we see again the motif of the rejected prophet, cast out by people in high power. Amos answers saying: “I was no prophet. I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores.” God calls his people from obscure places, shepherds like David; fishermen like Peter and even tax collectors. An encounter with God is life-changing as we see from each of these accounts. Jesus finds us amidst our daily lives, doing our daily work and sets us apart, chosen to send his message.
Our Gospel reading begins with Jesus summoning the twelve. He sends them out with his own authority and his own message. It is by his own power, given by the Father, that they drive out unclean spirits. Jesus gives them instructions on their conduct because rejections will occur. Indeed in another place he tells them they will be cast out of Synagogues (John 16:2). Why would they be cast out for the desirable works of driving away demons and curing illnesses? It isn’t for this they will be hated but because they “went off and preached repentance”. People want their bodies and minds to be healed but will hate admitting their soul also needs healing. Spiritual sicknesses, vices, greed and wickedness are the most stubborn and malignant.
The disciples leave without any worldly goods: just their basic clothing and a walking stick. Leaving behind material goods not only displays a trust in God’s providence but that God’s true riches are in the Gospel. His treasures are found in the sacraments and freely-given spiritual gifts. In the Epistle reading, Paul says we have “every spiritual blessing in the heavens”. He names some of these: “The favor of God’s will, wisdom and insight, adoption as sons of God through Jesus Christ.” He says we also have redemption and forgiveness through the blood of Christ. What priceless gifts! No, the disciples aren’t carrying clothing, money or food but something infinitely more valuable! One who has this treasure- and fully realizes it is like a cup flowing over. He must share with others. This missionary spirit is the burning instinct of Christianity, to kindle fire upon the earth. Thus the apostle Paul says “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16). Paul points out the danger in keeping one’s treasures and blessings to himself. A person who does such is indeed miserable. His enjoyment of these gifts fades. Nothing makes them grow further. He is like a box closed in on itself, a flame which has gone out.
As a missionary people, we take after Jesus whose mission revolved around preaching repentance. Repentance not only tells us about God’s Kingdom but how we can arrive there. By turning away from sin and malice, we open a certain gate of the heart, one which leads to Jesus who is the “way, the truth and the life”. After its Divine Founder, Christianity was called in early days: “The Way.”
The ending rites of the Holy Mass bring this to mind. The “Ite Missa Est” is a call to evangelize. Our word, Mass, comes from the Latin word for “sending”. Ite Missa Est literally means “Go, it is sent.” So we hear an echo of Jesus’s words: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15). From the Holy Scripture, we hear the Good News of God’s wisdom and at the Holy Altar we receive the Good News of God’s love. Now we are to spread the good tidings, the immense graces of Jesus Christ into the world. The faith after all is something the world needs to know. Humanity aches in confusion, paralyzed by violence and fear, blindly groping for one pleasure after another. Little has meaning. Life has no meaning. In the light of faith, new life can be found, the life within man restored.
This is why it is so important to be recognized as Christians and Catholics, that our way of life is different and striking. The externals, the sign of the cross and most importantly, the love and long-suffering we bear are all visible signs of a powerful faith. Yes, hate may be one response, yet another may be amazement…and this is good for amazement begins many a journey.