The Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
15 July 2018 at Saint Peter the Apostle and Saint William Churches in Naples, FL
Amos 7, 12-15 + Psalm 85 + Ephesians 1, 3-14 + Mark 6, 7-13
After last week’s rejection of by those who’s unbelief left Jesus with nothing to do there, he has moved on to neighboring villages. The memory of that distressful and disappointing experience was surely still fresh in the mind of the Apostles. Given their behavior on other occasions, they no doubt expected quite a welcome for the home-town hero who was already so famous bringing glory to little Nazareth. Now they are being called in pairs for a serious and detailed instruction. Then they are sent out with power to do all that Jesus was doing and preach repentance. When I stop to think about it, I am always amazed over what is going on here. Jesus had a lot of confidence in that rag-tag group of twelve he has called away from fishing boats and tax tables, their families, and everything that is familiar and comfortable. There is no evidence at all that they are capable of doing what he asks, but he sends them, and they go. Next week we will find out how it goes. But for now, we are left to decide whether or not we are outside of this story looking in, or whether or not we too are being sent. It should be noticed that he sent them all, not some and not best and brightest. Every single one of them is sent. There is no one left out of the mission. It would seem to me that St. Mark is making a point here for his church and for us all.
In the end, this is what the whole experience of discipleship has been about. In some ways, I’ve always considered Mark’s Gospel to be a “school of discipleship”. The disciple learns and then does something with what they have been taught. For these disciples of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel, it would seem that a kind of “internship” has begun, a trial run, to see what they can do with what they have learned. It is the same for all of us. At some point in our discipleship, we have to do something with what we have learned. At some point it’s time to stop going to Bible Study and get on with Bible living! While all learning is a life-long endeavor, there does come a time when you start doing something with what you’ve learned. It is always a great challenge for us to be active, not passive followers; to be not only receivers but also givers. Not barren or dead branches on the vine, but living and fruitful ones.
My friends, belief in God is very uncomfortable because it increases our responsibility. If there was no God, then there would be no point in being responsible because if there is no God, life is just random chaos and eternal night. If someone comes to us and asks for help, we should not turn them away with pious words saying: Have faith; take your troubles to God and God will help you.” Doing that acts as if there is no God, as if there was only one person in the world who could help this person, namely yourself. Reliance on the providence of God is essential, but it cannot be used as an excuse for doing nothing.
One winter day a man came upon a small boy sitting begging on a wind-swept city street. The boy was shivering from the cold and obviously in need of a good meal. On seeing him the man got very angry and said to God: “Lord, why don’t you do something about this boy?” And suddenly God replied: “I have already done something about him.” The man was surprised and said: “I hope you don’t mind me saying so, but whatever you did, doesn’t seem to be working.” “I agree with you.” God said. “By the way”, the man asked, “What did you do?” The reply from God came. “I made you.”
We are God’s instruments. That is our dignity and our responsibility. Notice carefully that in the instructions before we set out, we disciples are told to take nothing. All that we have to give is what we have received from Jesus Christ. These are qualities that cannot be contained in a sack or a belt. If Jesus sends us out in his name, he must know that we have what it takes to do what he asks. When we leave here in about thirty minutes, the mission begins. We do have what it takes, and it will be enough.