Jul. 14, 2018

Fifteenth Sunday, 2018

BEING MISSIONARY DISCIPLES

Readings: 1st- Amos 7:12-15; 2nd- Eph. 1:3-14; Gospel- Mk. 6:7-13

The call to discipleship is a theme that runs through the readings of today. Amaziah, priest of Bethel, says to Amos, “Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah! There, earn your bread by prophesying, but never again prophesy in Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary and royal temple” (Amos 7:12-13). Why did Amaziah tell Amos not to prophesy in Bethel?  Bethel, we are told, is the king’s city, a royal palace, and so should be “respected”. Amaziah, is the priest at the time, but we are not sure what his motives are. Apparently, he has a wrong impression of Amos’ prophetic ministry. Perhaps he is himself benefiting from the wealth in the palace. Perhaps he is thinking that prophecy is all about making money. Thus, he conceives Amos to be a rival. That means, he doesn’t mean well with his advice for the prophet. However, Amos, helps him to understand his background. He does not become a prophet because he is desperate but because the Lord has called him to the mission and said, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”

In the gospel, Jesus sends his apostles out. He commissions them two by two with the missionary mandate. I will use a question and answer format to talk about today’s gospel. 

Question 1.Why did Jesus send his disciples two by two?

Ans.He wanted them to be aware of the virtue of charity. He wanted them to provide support for each other. “Two by two” means that they should remind each other of the purpose of their mission. One person would always be a backup for the other. It means partnership in prayer.

Question 2.Why did Jesus ask them to take nothing for their journey? 

Ans.In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells the disciples, “a laborer deserves his wages” (Matt. 10:10). Jesus wanted the disciples to understand two things here: First is that God, who calls one into ministry would always take care of his own. Focus on the mission is the primary objective. God will surely provide for their upkeep. Second, the disciples of Jesus would be taken care of by those they minister to. In his letter, Saint Paul writes, “Don't you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar?” (1 Cor. 9:13)

Question 3.Why ask them to take a walking stick and a sandal at all?

Ans.The walking stick and sandal are signs of preparedness to do battle against the evil one. In the Old Testament, Moses used his rod/walking stick to battle against Pharaoh. It was his rod that he used to strike the Red Sea that divided for the Israelites to pass by, the same rod that he used to strike the rock to provide water in the desert. These pictures are clear when Saint Paul writes on the Armor of God: Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:13-17)

Question 4.Why did Jesus ask them to stay in the house that welcomes them and to leave where they are not welcome?

Ans.The message of the gospel is meant to be appreciated by its receivers. Those who welcome the disciples receive the peace that the gospel brings. They become part of the mission. 

On the other hand, Jesus knew that not everyone would accept the message at the same time. However, receiving the message of the gospel is not by force. It is the Lord who speaks. He touches each person at different times and at different spots.

Question 5.What is the content of the message?

Ans.The disciples were commissioned to preach repentance. The Greek word for repentance is “metanoia” which means to turn around. It is important for those who hear the word of God to turn around from evil. One can accept the gospel only if the person is converted. Conversion is the first part of healing. Conversion means acknowledgment of one’s fault, and recognition of the need to return to God for mercy. Eventually, the disciples drove out demons and cured sicknesses. Those who get converted get healed. They do away with demons. They receive anointing and are healed.

It is important for us to recognize that we are all called to discipleship. We are called to form partnership for the sake of the good news. St. Paul reminds us that we have been blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing that could come from the heavenly places. By baptism, we become disciples of Jesus. We embrace the gospel message at every stage of our lives. 

In the Vision provided us by Archbishop Lori for proper evangelization, the archbishop emphasizes two points: one is the core priority of discipleship while the other is the goal. The core priority is ENCOUNTER while the goal is CONVERSION. We begin our evangelization from the Liturgy. We must make the Liturgy a welcoming celebration. Everyone has to feel welcomed in the Church. Everyone must feel appreciated. Everyone must feel belonged and accepted. No one should be made to look like stranger who comes to worship God. 

Beyond the liturgy, we have also been sent to encounter others in the world. We should bear the mark of disciples of Jesus. We must make others feel the impact of the gospel in us- our families (husband/wife/children); our work (colleagues, employees, employers); our relationships (friends); our society (strangers, immigrants), etc. Everyone must see the gospel preached in our daily lives and encounters. That is what the call to discipleship entails. It is a universal call. Jesus sends us all on mission.