Genesis 41:55-57; 42:5-7a, 17-24a
The Gospel of Matthew begins today the second of the five discourses of Jesus. In this particular discourse Jesus talks about conducting missionary work and what is to be expected. First, Jesus calls among his disciples twelve men who will become his apostles. These twelve are given the instruction: "Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’" Jesus explicitly tells them not to go to the pagans and Samaritans. Is Jesus being stingy with the message about the Kingdom?
An important rule of public speaking is to know your audience. If you want to inform, persuade or entertain your audience, you must know their interests, likes and dislikes. The famous comedian Merton Berle would begin his routine by telling five different types of one-liner jokes. From the reaction he got from the jokes, he would know if the majority of the audience was in the mood for silly humor, political humor, or blue jokes. Berle had an encyclopedic mind for jokes and comedy routines, so he would then present the routine that was effective for the particular audience that night.
Jesus was not being stingy; he was being practical. By speaking only to Jewish audiences, the apostles would have some chance of success. Their audience would have the same language and share the same religious traditions and expectation as the apostles. It would be futile to preach to the non-Jewish groups about the Kingdom of God, the long-awaited Messiah, Moses and the Exodus.
This practical wisdom Jesus displays, as he sends out the apostles, is a virtue we can use. We are not supermen or wonder women. We can’t do all things for all people. Like the apostles, we have our limitations. We need not condemn ourselves because we are not as talented as someone else. God knows our abilities, weakness and fears. That is precisely where God will be working with us. God will use our abilities and limitations to proclaim the Kingdom. Trust God to work in your life as you are, not as you think you should be. God knows the person with whom he is working.
Fr. Don Webber, C.P., is Provincial Superior of Holy Cross Province and resides in Chicago.