Don Fabio’s reflection follows the Gospel reading . . .
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GOSPEL Mark 6:7-13
Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in pairs giving them authority over the unclean spirits. And he instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no haversack, no coppers for their purses. They were to wear sandals but, he added, ‘Do not take a spare tunic.’ And he said to them, ‘If you enter a house anywhere, stay there until you leave the district. And if any place does not welcome you and people refuse to listen to you, as you walk away shake off the dust from under your feet as a sign to them.’ So they set off to preach repentance; and they cast out many devils, and anointed many sick people with oil and cured them.
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ
Kieran’s summary . . .In the Gospel Jesus sends out the apostles in pairs, asking them to bring only a staff, no haversack, money, spare sandals or second tunic. Maybe we think that this passage is an exhortation for us to go out and preach the word of God, but it is primarily an exhortation on how to receive the word of God. We must first listen before we can speak. We need to be spoken to by an apostle before we can go out and become apostles. Reading the Gospel in this light, this passage is a splendid opportunity to reorder our way of listening to God’s word. The bearer of the word of God carries a staff, the symbol of the pilgrim and the shepherd. The word of the Lord comes to shepherd me, to guide me to rich pastures. It does not come to bring me satisfactions because, in fact, it comes to liberate me from my slavery to satisfaction. It does not bring me material things (haversack, money, etc.,) because it aims to liberate me from dependency on material things. It liberates me from a fixation with money and helps me to use money for love. It invites me to put on my sandals and get moving with my life. It does not wear two tunics in the sense that it does not bring ambiguity to my life. It is not duplicitous. It does not come to me saying a little bit of “yes” and a little bit of “no”. It wishes to be welcomed by me completely and to remain with me. If I welcome it, then I become a single thing with that word, but if I do not welcome it, then I cannot hold onto it in a partial sense and manipulate it for my ends. In this sense, the word of God kicks the dust of my duplicitous “welcome” off its feet. I must accept the word of the Lord sincerely or it cannot become one with me. Let us become those people who receive the word of God wholeheartedly and allow themselves to be transformed by it!
Amos’ prophesy is rejected because it seems harsh. Would it not have been better if it had been accepted as a word from the Lord intended to shepherd and guide the people?
The first reading is from the prophet Amos. Amos is a man from the southern kingdom of Judah, but he has been sent to Bethel in the north where the priest Amaziah is in command. The Lord reproves the northern kingdom through the words of the prophet Amos and Amaziah will have none of it. He tells Amos to get out of there and return to the land of Judah. Amos replies, “I was not a prophet nor the son of a prophet. I was a shepherd and looked after sycamores, but the Lord took me from my flock and sent me to prophesy to Israel.” We can look at this text from two points of view: that of Amaziah and that of Amos. From the perspective of Amaziah, the words of Amos are bitter and unwelcome. But from the perspective of Amos they are very different. He replies to Amaziah that he is not a prophet by trade but a shepherd and cultivator of the land. So, Amos is saying, why not accept me as a shepherd? Why think of me as an aggressor rather than someone who comes here to nurture and shepherd you?
The word of the Lord comes to me to shepherd me, not to make me richer or to aid my economic success or material well-being.
Let us consider the Gospel reading from this point of view. The twelve are sent out in pairs and given power over impure spirits. We might think that this text is exhorting us to go out and preach the Gospel, but this is true only in a secondary sense. I must first receive the Gospel before I can go out and preach it. Instead of seeing myself in the glorious role of apostle, perhaps I am someone that needs first to be spoken to by an apostle? Let us then, consider this passage as someone who needs to listen to the word. How does the word of the Lord come to me? What form does it have when it arrives to me? The Gospel speaks of being sent out in pairs. The word of the Lord always has this aspect of communion. It never comes to me in an individual form. It is not focussed on individuals or on the self but on something that goes beyond the self. It is always focussed on communion. But this is only a prelude. Jesus tells the twelve to bring nothing with them except a staff, no haversack, money, or spare sandals. The staff is the symbol of the pilgrim and the shepherd. When the word comes to me, it is brought by a pilgrim, by someone in movement. It comes as a shepherd, as something which must shepherd and guide me to rich pastures. It does not bring bread or money to me. It does not bring reward, satisfaction or comfort. It does not come with a “haversack”; in other words, it does not bring resources or material success. It does not make me richer or help my business projects to be more successful. In fact, it might have the contrary effect. It might prompt me to renounce some of these material things. It will invite me to be moved, to be stirred up, and will not permit me to remain in my comfort zone.
The word of the Lord does not have “two tunics”, it is not ambiguous or duplicitous.
Jesus also says not to bring a second tunic. The tunic is the garment that others see on me. It represents my role, my place in society. Jesus invites me not to have two tunics, not to live an ambiguous or duplicitous life, where I wear a different coat for every changing situation, put on a different face for every conversation. The word of God when it comes to me should be clear and unambiguous. It will say to me what needs to be said. And when the word of God enters a house, it will remain there. It comes for me and wishes to remain with me. If I do not accept it, then it will leave me and kick the dust off its feet. The reason for this is that I must either accept it or reject it. The word of God is not something that can be half accepted. If I reject it, then I put myself out of relationship with the word and it is as if it has kicked the dust of my compromising heart off its feet.
Summary of the homily
Let us summarize. This Gospel is a splendid opportunity to reorder our way of listening to God’s word. The word of the Lord comes to shepherd me. It does not come to bring me satisfactions because, in fact, it comes to liberate me from my slavery to satisfaction. It does not bring me material things (haversack, money, etc.,) because it aims to liberate me from dependency on material things. It liberates me from a fixation with money and helps me to use money for love. It invites me to put on my sandals and get moving with my life. It does not wear two tunics and does not bring ambiguity to my life. It does not come to me saying a little bit of yes and a little bit of no. It wishes to be welcomed by me and to remain with me. If I welcome it, then I become a single thing with that word, but if I do not welcome it, then I cannot hold onto it in a partial sense and manipulate it for my ends. Let us become those people who welcome the word of God and allow themselves to be transformed by it!