15th Sunday (B)

Today’s Gospel reading (Mk 6:7-13) is about the Lord who sends his disciples to continue the mission that he had inaugurated. The origin of the missionary vocation is Jesus who prepares the apostles for this important moment. It is Jesus who calls them personally; it is he who selects the Twelve to be his companions and to be sent out to preach with the power to cast out devils. Tutored by Jesus and present with him as he heals many from sickness and evil, the Twelve are sent out with tremendous power bestowed upon them. Mark narrates: “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.” The task of those sent by Jesus is to bring the healing balm of forgiveness to those wounded by the virulence of sin and to denounce evil wherever its presence is obvious, openly confronting it by appealing to the power of Christ.

 

A little village came under heavy artillery fire during the Korean War. There was a fine statue of Christ, mounted on a pedestal outside the Catholic Church, which was blown off into fragments. A group of Soldiers helped the priest to put the pieces together, but the hands were missing. So these words are written at the base of the statue “Friends, lend me your hands.” Today he needs our hands to raise the fallen. He has no feet but ours to seek out the lost. He has no ears but ours to listen to the lonely. He has no tongue but ours to speak words of sympathy, of comfort and of encouragement to those weighed down by sorrow, pain and failure.

The meaning of Jesus’ instructions: Why did Jesus send the Apostles in pairs? Because according to Jewish law, two witnesses were needed to pronounce a truth.  Going two by two carries with it the authority of official witnesses. It is clear from the instructions that his disciples should take no supplies for the road but simply trust in God for their requirements.  God, the Provider, would open the hearts of believers to take care of the needs of the disciples.   They should be walking examples of God’s love and providence.  By doing so, they would also have the maximum of freedom and the minimum of burdens in their preaching and healing ministry.  Jesus wanted his apostles to be rich in all the things, which really mattered, so that they might enrich those who came into contact with them.

Convey the Good News of God’s love and mercy: Jesus’ disciples were to preach the Good News that God is not a punishing judge, but rather a loving Father who wants to save men from their bondage to sin through Jesus His Son. The disciples were to preach the message of metanoia or repentance–which has disturbing implications.  To “repent” means to change one’s mind and then fit one’s actions to this change.  This is an invitation for a total and complete transformation from a self-centered life to a God-centered life.  It is also interesting to note that Jesus commanded his disciples to anoint with oil.  In the ancient world, oil was regarded as a sort of cure-all.  In the hands of Christ’s servants, however, the old cures would acquire a new virtue through the power of God.

We have a liberating mission: Although many people don’t believe in real demonic possession in our age, there are many demons, which can control the lives of people around us making them helpless slaves.  For example, there are the demons of nicotine, alcohol, gambling, pornography and promiscuous sex, materialism and consumerism, or of any other activity, which somehow can take control of people’s lives and become an addiction over which they have no control.  All of these, or any one of them, can turn people into slaves.  We need the help of Jesus to liberate us from these things.  Jesus is inviting us today to cooperate with him.  He wants us to be his instruments of liberation, to help others recover their freedom. We are meant to help people to cure their sicknesses – not only the bodily sicknesses but psychological and emotional illnesses as well.  As a family member, a friend, a colleague, an evangelizer, when we work with Jesus, we can truly have a healing influence.

We, too, have a witnessing mission: Each Christian is called not only to be a disciple but also to be an apostle.  As disciples, we are to follow Jesus and imitate Jesus.  As apostles, we are to evangelize the world.  We are called to share with others not just words, or ideas, or doctrines but an experience, our experience of God and His Son, Jesus.  Like the apostles, like St. Francis of Assisi, like St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa), we are all chosen and sent to proclaim the Gospel through our living.  It is through our transparent Christian lives that we must show in our own actions the love, mercy and concern of Jesus for the people around us. Since we are baptized, Jesus is calling us in our working and living environment to evangelize, to invite people to know Jesus, to love him, to serve him and to follow him. An important part of evangelism is the simple act of inviting a friend or family member to join us in worship. This is where reconciliation between persons and God is most likely to take place. A simple invitation offered out of a loving and joyful heart is the most powerful evangelistic message of all. Remember the words of our second reading; the Father has “blessed us with all the spiritual blessings of heaven in Christ. Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless and to live through love in his presence.” (Eph. 1:3-5)