Readings:Amos 7:12-15Psalms 85:9-14Ephesians 1:3-14Mark 6:7-13
The readings for this Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time link the First Testament’s prophetic tradition with Jesus’ ministry and with His active choosing of disciples, the “Twelve,” to be sent out on missionary work. Jesus speaks to the Twelve just as Moses spoke to the Israelites preparing for their departure from Egypt. As the Twelve are sent out “two by two” they are “to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick… [and] sandals.” The goal of their journey is very specific: to preach repentance, drive out demons, and anoint with oil and cure the sick.
We are hardly in need of being reminded of the disciples’ ordinary status, for they, like Amos in our first reading, were chosen by Jesus not because of any unusual status or standing in their local communities. Rather, Jesus sensed in the simple and ordinary, in the uneducated and the poor, some openness to God’s word, an openness which enabled Jesus to put His trust in the simplest of individuals. Mark’s description of the Twelve’s success was very positive: “they drove out many demons, and they anointed many who were sick and cured them.” It is the kind of success usually not seen in the other gospels (primarily John) until after the descent of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus desired that His disciples be unencumbered for the journey: “no food, no sack, no money in their belts,” and there is not even a need for a “second tunic.” They are equipped with God’s blessing, and it is His trust that accompanies them. St. Paul’s second reading from the Ephesians explains why they have been chosen to go forth to preach and heal. “In Him,” Paul states, “you were chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of His will, so that we might exist for the praise of His glory.” There is never any reason for pride, for we did not choose God, God chose us to be his disciples, and what has been shared with us is meant to give God glory, and it is not meant to shed any beneficial light on us. It is good to remember what the Scriptures say: “You did not choose me,” says Jesus. Rather, I chose you and appointed you that you might go and bear fruit, fruit that will last” (John 15:16).
None of us can quite imagine traveling anywhere in the “stripped down” fashion of the disciples, but we would do well to imagine in the fulfillment of our prophetic role what we might be carrying in our prophetic traveling bag. If we are going to preach the gospel successfully and bring healing to those who need it, then perhaps we need to be unencumbered by the cares of this world. Our bag needs to be emptied of grudges, rid of the petty insults levied by those who dislike us, those who might be antagonistic to the message of Jesus and whose “dust” we should shake off our feet. While there is always the need to interact with the world in which we live, we might entertain the possibility that we are carrying around in our prophetic bag way too much money, some of which might be shared with those less fortunate than us, thus lightening our burden. Perhaps our prophetic bags are filled with way too many “me” things, things that we think are important because they affect ourselves, but things that are inconsequential to spreading the gospel of Christ, a gospel of repentance and forgiveness. Because of the stuff we feel is so important to us (our image, our looks, our reputation, our standing in our communities, our talents, etc.), perhaps it takes us too long to sort through our prophetic bags, causing us to miss the graced moment that God has provided us with, a moment when the other is truly ready to accept God’s Word into their heart.
We, who have been chosen by a loving God to assist with the furtherance of His kingdom, need to free ourselves of those things which might prevent us from being the messengers that God has intended us to be. Our own interests do not matter, and our prophetic bags should be light enough to carry through life, so that we are never weighed down or prevented from sharing the “Word of truth,” preaching “the gospel of our salvation,” and bringing others to the Christ, our Savior, who makes all burdens light.

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