Year C, 15th Sunday Ordinary Time | Mark 6:7-13
Recently, I was at the airport, sitting in a enclosed room, waiting for a flight that had been delayed by a few hours. It was a noisy place! From where I was sitting, I could hear many different voices. A lot of the voices were shouting, bitter, complaining and angry. These voices made my mood worse. I’m sure they had the same effect on many others in the room. Other voices, however, were more positive. There was a mother who was playing with her child, an elderly couple talking about the nice places they went on their trip and polite staff who tried to reassure the passengers that the flight would come soon. These voices were uplifting and made the waiting easier. Each day can feel like being in that airport waiting room. We are surrounded by many voices. Numerous messengers communicate to us. Some of these voices are good and others bad.
There are many messengers who fill the world with darkness by their way of life and with the message they convey. Some examples come to mind. Messengers in the media. Although there are many well-meaning people working in the media, too often the media – whether it be newspapers or news programs on TV – tend to be negative. Only the bad news seems to be reported. Social media has aggravated this tendency. In an attempt to garner more clicks, the stories shared on the internet are becoming more and more sensational. Political messengers. Although there are many dedicated politicians, others live scandalous lives, lie and cheat. Their message seems intent on inflaming the fear and hatred of people, dividing them in the process. Religious messengers. Unfortunately, even in the world of religion there are many negative voices. Some religious leaders, who should be serving their people, use their positions to enrich themselves. For example, you might have heard the story recently about the TV evangelist who tried to convince his congregation to buy him a private jet for 54 million US dollars. This would be his fourth jet!
In stark contrast to the many voices that fill the world with darkness, Jesus sent his twelve apostles to be be messengers who fill the world with love, liberation and healing. In the days before newspaper, TV and internet, information was spread through itinerant, wandering preachers. Jesus and the apostles were these kind of communicators. In the gospel of today (Mark 6:7-13), Jesus lays out clearly what kind of messengers the apostles are called to be. First and foremost, the twelve share in Jesus ministry. Like Jesus, they teach and call people to repentance, that is, to live a life more in accordance with what God would want. The twelve are also given authority over unclean spirits. Instead of bringing more darkness into the world, they receive the power to cast darkness out. Jesus also instructs his apostles “take nothing for the journey” except some mere essentials. They are to have just a walking stick, sandals and the clothes on their backs. In this way, Jesus informs his apostles that their focus should not be on material possessions but rather on their mission. This mission should fill them with a sense of urgency. They should not expect to have financial security but rather should rely on the hospitality of others. In addition, Jesus tells the twelve that when people do not accept them, they should “shake off the dust” from their feet “in testimony against them”. When they are rejected, the twelve are not to respond with violence or anger, but rather with this symbolic action which might represent that those places in which they are not accepted are not part of the true land of Israel. For this reason, they shake the dust of these places off their feet. It shows that those who reject them and Jesus are not part of Israel, that is, God’s chosen people.
Like the apostles, we are sent by Jesus to be messengers who fill others with love, joy and hope and lead them closer to God. Unlike the apostles, we are probably not called to go out as travelling missionaries. In our daily lives, however, Jesus calls us to be messengers like him. How can we do this? Two points stand out.
First, we need to seriously evaluate our relationship with material possessions. Although we are perhaps not called to poverty like the twelve, we are challenged to put material possessions in proper perspective. Certainly, we need things like a place to live, food, and clothing and should work to get them. However, these things are not ends in themselves. These possessions are tools; they are means of building up God’s kingdom. When we die, Jesus will not ask us what kind of car we drove, the clothes we wore or the phone we had, but rather what we did to spread his message of love to others and how we have helped the needy.
Second, like the apostles, we are called to engage in a peaceful way with others, especially those who disagree with us. We live in a polarized world where people no longer seem to get along. There is far to much shouting and too many unkind words. Like Jesus, we are called to speak kindly to others, to be patient and to forgive. Each day, we meet many people who are struggling and in need of encouragement. At work or school, we can compliment others when they do something well. If someone is passing through a difficult time, we can listen to them and assure them of our prayers.
Life is very much like that airport waiting room. It is filled with many voices. Many voices drag people down and bring more darkness into the world. Jesus calls us to be messengers who bring love, joy and compassion to others. What kind of messenger will you choose to be?
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