“Without cost you have received; without cost you are give.” (Mt 10:8)
To understand today’s gospel, we must first place it in context. Jesus has just authorized his disciples to go on mission just like his. They were to proclaim that: “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” They were to look to the needs of the sick, the lepers, and those afflicted by demons. They were to “raise the dead,” the spiritually dead (Mt 10:7-8). This was not an easy mission for Matthew’s community. After all, they were living in the calamitous times after the Roman destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in 70 A.D. They were scoffed at, criticized, even persecuted for their faith in Jesus the Messiah. Nevertheless, they were to proclaim the good news of the kingdom, not the Roman kingdom, but the Kingdom of God. They were to share their faith through their witness, their preaching and healing.
The mission of the early Church is our mission as well. The times in which we live are, in a real sense, like the times of the first disciples – hostile, and calamitous. We live in post-modern, moral relativistic times in which God is no longer the center. Sadly, for all too many, there is no center. All is relative. If there is a center, it is the autonomous individual. In such times, there is little good news to proclaim. On the contrary, there is open hostility toward anyone who even attempts to proclaim Christ’s message.
But another important similarity is that our faith, like the first Christians, is pure gift which we have received from Christ. And although our times may not be ideally suited for sharing our faith, that is no excuse for avoiding our mission. There’s a lot of uncertainty, confusion, and pain in the world. All the more reason that Christ urgently calls us to share his good news, to bring about healing and shalom to a hurting and angry world. And Jesus gives us a pointed reminder about our responsibility: Without cost, we have received the gift of faith, and without cost – read that, despite the cost – we are to share our faith with all.
Deacon Manuel Valencia is on the staff at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.