15th Week in Ordinary Time

Sunday, July 15, 2018

First reading: Am. 7:12-15

Amaziah, priest of Bethel, said 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 a royal temple.” Amos answered Amaziah, “I was no prophet, nor have I belonged to a company of prophets; I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. The LORD took me from following the flock, and said to me, Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”

Second reading: Eph. 1:3-14

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved. In him we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of transgressions, in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us. In all wisdom and insight, he has made known to us the mystery of his will in accord with his favor that he set forth in him as a plan for the fullness of times, to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth.

In him we were also 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, we who first hoped in Christ. In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised holy Spirit, which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory.

Gospel: Mk. 6:7-13

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick—no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave. Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.” So they went off and preached repentance. The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

In other words Fr. Randy Flores, SVD (Divine Word Seminary, Tagaytay City)

These two traveling Jesuit missionaries from Portugal have practically nothing with them as they embark on a dangerous mission in Japan. Just a dusty leather bag each worn across their skinny bodies. They must rely solely on divine providence called hospitality. The Japanese Christians who pray in secret and practice their faith in silence how this hospitality by welcoming the two strangers, hiding them in a small hut, taking care of them and even bravely shedding their blood for them. The scene comes from Martin Scorsese’s movie Silence (2016) based on Shusaku Endo’s 1966 novel with the same title.

It’s the Commissioning of the Twelve. Jesus summons (prosakaleo in Greek), sends (apostello), gives (didomi) authority, and orders them (paranggelo). The four verbs are reminiscent of the dispatching of soldiers for the battlefield. But instead of sending a battalion of missionaries like in the Roman Legion, Jesus sends only two—duo duo (two by two)—for every town. The Law of Moses requires at least two persons to have a truthful and communal testimony. While a Roman soldier is dispatched with 40 kilograms of equipment—clothing, arms, armor, and food, Jesus dispatches his disciples, instructing them to carry “nothing” (medeis) at all. They should only carry a communal witness, Jesus’ authority and his message. Those are enough. For the rest, they must rely on the hospitality of strangers.

The missionary must not be a lone ranger but must work beginning with a community of two. Their authority (exousia) is not to be self-serving, it must be used for others’ benefit. The message must not be long-winding and complicated, it should be simple: “repentance” (metanoia in Greek)—a change of heart and mind. The mission must not be selective but for the rich or poor, Jewish or Gentile. The mission must be free and not forced: if rejected, a simple shaking the dust off the feet will do; no cursing words, no profanities, no violent threats, no pagtatampo (a Filipino trait of keeping grudges). Success or failure depends on God’s hands.

The story of the Commissioning does not end here. The Evangelist Mark informs us that the “sent-ones” (apostoloi) gather around Jesus and share with him “all they had done and taught.” Some succeed while others could fail. Even Jesus failed in his own hometown where he was belittled. What is important is not so much the success of their mission as the regathering of the Twelve with their Master. Jesus called them “to be with him” (met’auto in Mark 3:14). So, Jesus invites them to be with him to a deserted place to rest awhile (Mark 6:31). Jesus’ missionaries must be contemplatives in action.

Some points for reflection: What mission or missions has Jesus reserved for me? What do I need to accomplish this mission? Who are my partners in the mission? Can I honestly say that I have been with Jesus so I can embark on such a mission?

Tags: Bible reflection, Witness to the Word