The Fifth Sunday of Pentecost
Philippians 3:7-14 & Matthew 10, 1-7
June 12, 2016 at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church in Norman, Oklahoma
Matthew is carefully unfolding the story of Jesus. In the story of his baptism, Jesus accepts his task of ushering in the Kingdom of God. Then in the story of the Desert Temptations that follows, Jesus chooses the method he will use to proclaim and realize that Kingdom. The great Sermon on the Mount comes next with which Jesus describes the attitudes that will identify those who live in that Kingdom. They will be called “Blessed.” After the sermon, Jesus begins his mission of teaching, preaching, healing, and forgiving; and he begins to meet opposition from the authorities who have a lot to lose with his message. At that point he chooses helpers to form and prepare carrying on his task or “mission.”
The first thing we can notice about them is that they are very ordinary people. There was about them no remarkable wealth or social position. They were simply common people who did ordinary things with no special advantages. They were just like you and me. Yet, Jesus looks at them just as he looks at us seeing not just what and who we are, but what and who he can make us become. This is what is happening here, not just in the Gospel, but in this room as well. Under the influence and power of Jesus Christ, ordinary people will do ordinary things extraordinarily well.
Matthew calls them “apostles”. If you belong to the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, that’s you. This is the first time the word “apostle” is used, and it is only used one more time. He called them. There was no force or fear, but simply an invitation. They were free to say “yes” or “no”. Everyone is called and invited. Some accept and some refuse. The freedom is always respected. Then he appointed them to a task as the story unfolds. They had been “disciples” which means “learners.” Now what they have learned by watching and listening to Jesus, they will put into practice. They will preach and they will heal. The two cannot be separated because the healing is what the preaching is all about. What they do gives credibility to the preaching. They are to say what he says and do what he does: “You are forgiven”, heal, cleanse, and lift up the dead is the task. This is full authority. What Jesus did in earlier verses, they are now authorized to do.
No longer are these people spectators there to watch and just listen to Jesus. They are not eavesdroppers. They are to take nothing for what they do. This ministry is a gift and it must be seen as gift, so they do not compromise themselves or the mission by doing it for any gain or profit. The Kingdom of God is a gift. You can’t buy it or earn it.
Carrying no staff makes these apostles distinct from other travelers because they travel light. To make sure that they never forget who they are and how they are to behave, they are not to wear sandals. Slaves do not wear sandals. This instruction makes clear that they are servants. They put first things first knowing that God will provide what they need if they are fulfilling God’s will.
My friends, the church teaches that when Jesus speaks there is no time or place, no history and no future. The Word of God proclaimed is always for the now, for the moment. Jesus Christ speaks now to you and me. We are in this church today because we have been called. Think of how many others are somewhere else right now sleeping, golfing, watching TV, working their jobs, or just playing around. Many of them have said “no” to the invitation, but many of them have never heard it. The Word of God proclaimed in this church brings the Word Made Flesh, Jesus Christ into this place and he speaks to us still about what we are to do and how we are to do it. We are servants who have received a gift we are to share, by doing what he has done. This is no place for spectators. If you are going into Communion with Christ in the sacrament of this alter, you are going into the mission of Christ as Lord of the Harvest. The consequences of that are something we will hear of next week, but for now we will have enough to do with simply making sure we have no sandals, no staff, and have put first things first ready to forgive, cleanse, heal, and bring life and joy to those who have no hope and therefore no life.