We pick up today’s Gospel towards the beginning of chapter 10 where Jesus commissions his Twelve Apostles, gives them authority to “cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons” and then sends them out. Of particular note, are Jesus instructions to them to bring nothing on the journey—not even a walking stick!
Is Jesus really asking for total dependence on and even vulnerability to the “worthy” people or towns they will encounter? Maybe this sounds very risky to our minds and I wonder how we translate those instructions in our own times?
This sending is to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (v.5). Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is clear about who he has come to save. It will not be until post-resurrection (Matt 28) when the mission is expanded to all nations. Yet, the author of Matthew wants the Jews of his time to hear and take seriously the message proclaimed by the Apostles who were sent out from Jerusalem following Jesus’ assumption to the Father. We know from those early stories that the “pagans” or Gentiles heard the news and believed in much larger numbers. I believe the author here in this text is hoping to spark the flame of faith in the Jewish people—to whom he is primarily writing—to remind them that they are the Chosen People and Jesus is their Good Shepherd.
Of course, we know in Jesus final commissioning, he instructs his disciples to, “Go and baptize all nations.” By virtue of our baptism, we are all anointed Priest, Prophet and King; we are all called and sent.
Today, as I entered the grocery store to pick up a few items for dinner, I chuckled to myself at the thought of going around the aisles and proclaiming to shoppers, “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Yet, that is exactly what I am to do! Although, I may be much more effective if I am kind and courteous…at the very least. Somewhere I remember hearing that I am my neighbor’s gospel.
“Without cost you have received, without cost you are to give.” How profound is that! I can share the love of God which has been lavished on me and it doesn’t cost anything….except maybe that I see beyond myself and my own needs. Perhaps, as I go about my day, I do not take along anything except the clothes I am wearing—no baggage from the day; no frustrations, anger or anxieties—just peace. Imagine we have the power to bring Christ’s peace to everyone—no exceptions.
We also need to remember to “shake the dust from our feet” every time we are rejected for trying to share that love. Jesus does NOT want anything to linger—let it go—all of it. Do not let it color your vision of mission. Brothers and sisters, let us live into this reality as we proclaim, the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Come, Lord, Jesus! Amen
Jean Bowler is a retreatant at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center in Sierra Madre, California, and a member of the Office of Mission Effectiveness Board of Holy Cross Province.