Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two
For the whole week, one important point in the Gospel readings seem to be centered in the election and commissioning of the Apostles, along with the instructions that the Lord Jesus gave them as they went out to spread the Good news. At least, personally for me, this seemed to be one recurring theme that I found in the Word, and which have guided me in my reflections all throughout this week, which I had eventfully spent in parish work.
Being chosen and being sent: once again these two concepts appear in the readings of the liturgy of this Sunday in order to guide us in our reflection, and which should orient us in our resolutions as we continue with our life. These two concepts could never be considered each to their own; they are not separate but are like twins. This is seen most especially in the Scriptures, for example, in the episode that we see in the book of the prophet Amos, the first reading for this Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B). In response to the belittling attitude of Amaziah, priest of Bethel, Amos asserts the fact that he was not prophesying on his own power, but as someone who was called and sent by the Lord himself to the people of Israel. He was a prophet not because of his own liking; the fact that he knows himself well as a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores makes it clear that he wasn’t giving any thought to prophesying until the Lord called and sent him.
This is the same thing that we see in the Lord Jesus concerning his disciples. In another part of the same Gospel of Mark, we see that Jesus called those whom we wanted (identified in the gospel by their names) so that they may be with him, and that he might send them out to preach (cfr. Mk 3:14). He did not call them merely that he may be able to share his life with them and that they may learn from him; they were chosen by him so that, having lived with him and having learned from him, they may be sent by the Lord in order to spread and preach the Good News.
This is something that is duplicated in our own life. The Lord has called us by name (cfr. Is 43:1) before the foundation of the world to be holy and be without blemish before him, as beloved children of his in Jesus Christ (cfr. Eph 1:3). This is something that we see in the Second Reading, taken from the letter of Paul to the Ephesians. We have been called in order to be his sons and daughters, according to the plan that he had since the beginning of time. The fact that we are called to enjoy this special relationship with him as his children, and that we bear his image and likeness in us, points to the fact that we are to be holy as he is holy (cfr. Mt. 5:48). Speaking of this, the Second Vatican Council teaches that all the faithful of Christ, whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and the perfection of charity (Lumen Gentium, 40). In a few words, we are all called to this holiness of life.
But in the same way as the Apostles in the Gospel, we are called to spread this Good News of salvation. The commissioning by the Lord of the Twelve in the Gospel reminds us of the duty to do apostolate in our own life. Apostolate, simply stated, is sharing the light of the Gospel to those nearest to us. One does not need to be a doctor and expert in Biblical Theology to do this. One just needs to be faithful to the grace that he or she has received in baptism. It is through the holiness of our life that the Gospel speaks to our neighbors; it is through the fragrance of a life pleasing to God that the Good News spreads. Nobody is exempted from this.
There is one peculiar detail in the instructions made by our Lord to his Apostles: he instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick—no food, no sack, no money in their belts…this may seem strange, because we have a good need of things in doing apostolate; tools are helpful, and more so, important, so why the Lord’s instruction to do away from even the basic necessities for a journey such as food and money? By these words the Lord wants us to realize one important thing in doing apostolate: we need to rely primarily on the grace of God, we should depend first and foremost on divine assistance. It is not the tools nor strategies that we employ in our apostolate that make us effective: it is first and foremost the grace and aid of the Lord who sends us on the mission. Unless the Lord builds the house, in vain do its builders labor (Ps 127:1), the psalm reminds us. The grace of God is the staff upon which we should lean on in doing apostolate; the Lord emphasizes the primacy of his grace in the labor or spreading the Gospel to all peoples. Ultimately, we ought to realize that Christian apostolate is not so much what we do for God; it is rather what God does in us and through us that allows the seeds to be planted in the hearts of those nearest to us, and it is the same God who brings into fruit that which he has planted.
To summarize everything, like the Twelve we have been called by God, each of us; destined to remain in his love, we have been sent by the Lord to announce the Good News of salvation to every creature by the holiness of our lives. The medium of this announcement is nothing else but our own life. Aided by the grace of God that will never be lacking to us, it is part of our vocation to do apostolate. May our Blessed Mother, through her intercession, aid us so that we may be the apostles which our society needs in order to make it more just and more humane, a society that bears witness to the culture of life, something pleasing to God. AMEN.
FIRST READING: Am 7:12-15
SECOND READING: Eph 1:3-14
GOSPEL: Mk 6:7-13