Hosea 10:1-3, 7-8, 12
Called to Mission
More than 2,000 years ago, Jesus called together an imperfect, improbable, implausible group of individuals, even called them by name, sent them out to proclaim the good news and to do his work. We know little of the 12, except Peter. Perhaps Jesus wanted the focus, not on his workers, but on his work. His work: to follow Jesus, form community with him and carry out his mission by healing the sick and driving out demons. His message: "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." It is a message of hope. The kingdom is not a place. It is Jesus himself who is near, present in our midst. Can we recognize him?
As with the 12, Jesus also calls us. It is the three-fold calling of our baptism.
Jesus calls us. In our baptism, Jesus welcomes us into his community, not because we are so holy or perfect or talented. Hardly. We bear a remarkable resemblance to the 12. He calls us because he loves us, and in community Jesus wants us to love one another.
Jesus calls us by name. In our baptism, the first words of the priest or deacon come in the form of a question. "What name do you give this child?" It is by name that God claims us as his own. There is nothing generic, faceless or random when he calls us. He calls us on purpose, for his purpose. He calls us by our name.
Jesus sends us out to do his work. No excuses, no hand-wringing about how sinful and inadequate we are. He knows that better than we do. It isn’t about us, the workers. It’s about his work. He will fill the cracks of our brokenness with his grace. In the words of Henri Nouwen, we will be transformed into "wounded healers." It is in our weakness that God’s power is revealed. Our mission is to show compassion, to suffer with and help sustain the weak among us, those who may be dead in sin, to touch the so-called untouchables with our embrace. But these actions must be accompanied with the message of good news or they mean nothing. And the message is this: "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." Take hope. Jesus is in our midst. Can we recognize him? In this world, he resembles us.
Deacon Manuel Valencia is on the staff at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.