Hosea 10:1-3, 7-8, 12
Called by Name We Too Are Sent Forth
Yesterday’s gospel told us that Jesus’ heart was moved with pity as he looked upon the crowds. They ‘were lying prostrate from exhaustion’, like sheep without a shepherd. Another translation clearly expresses that the people are not worn out from walking. It says, ‘they were harassed and torn apart’. Now calling his twelve disciples, Jesus gives them authority and sends them out like shepherds to lost sheep.
At the time of Jesus the twelve tribes no longer were a political factor, more a matter of ones ancestry. The twelve apostles who are named today will be a new ‘twelve tribes’ of Israel. They will be a foundation upon which the community of the followers of Jesus will be built. We see in The Acts of the Apostles the urgency to replace Judas. Twelve apostles are needed! But after the foundation is fixed the gradual death of each of the twelve needs no replacement. The foundation once established is in place.
In Luke’s gospel when Jesus began his ministry we see him fulfilling the words of the Prophet Isaiah. There is something similar here for Matthew. Proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom speaks of a restored Israel. To the ‘harassed and torn apart’ the apostles will announce Good News, ‘the reign of God is at hand’, and with the authority given them by Jesus, they will show the power of the Kingdom.
The Kingdom of God is established but until its coming in the fullness of God’s plan we, like Jesus, behold the exhausted, harassed and torn apart. We take our place among them too. And we are also privileged laborers in the harvest, continuing the work of the apostles giving as a gift the power of the Kingdom, given to us by Jesus. Being both the exhausted and the bearers of the gifts of the Kingdom, we turn to the Lord in whom our needs are made sweet with hope and the gifts we bear support us with joy, confidence, strength and gratitude.
These may have been the feelings of the twelve as they left Jesus to find the lost sheep of the house of Israel? They would learn later that being torn apart, harassed and exhausted would conform them to the one who suffered and died revealing God’s love. In that sharing they would have another gift to be shared with the sheep of the Good Shepherd.
If today you hear his voice know that you who were named at Baptism are called you by name, and the Lord sends you forth to care for his sheep.
Fr. William Murphy, CP is the pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Jamaica, New York.