Mark 6:7-13 15th Sunday
During the Korean War, a small Korean village came under heavy artillery fire. When the smoke of the battle cleared away, the pastor of the parish sought the help of some American soldiers in restoring to its pedestal a fallen statue of Christ. Since the statue’s hands were gone, the soldiers planned to mold two new hands. The pastor, however, came up with a very meaningful suggestion: “Let us leave the statue as it is and write on the front of the pedestal the words, FRIEND, LEND ME YOUR HANDS.” Sending his apostles as his ambassadors to preach the “good news” and to heal the sick, Jesus, in today’ gospel, reminds us that he has no hands but ours to raise the fallen; no feet but ours to seek out the lost; no ears but ours to listen to the lonely; and no tongue but ours to speak words of sympathy and encouragement to those weighed down by sorrow, pain and failure.
In the first reading, the prophet Amos is being called to leave his home and go earn his living by prophesying. Amos then tells the story of how it was not his choice to be a prophet, but he was called by God to fulfill this role. He does not argue; he does not worry about going hungry; he simply follows the call and goes. Amos was a country boy, a shepherd, and a pruner of sycamore trees — a nobody, chosen by God to prophesy to the nation of Israel (Am 7:14). Jesus likewise sent out His apostles as nobodies.
In today’s gospel, (Mark 6:1-13), the evangelist tells the story of Jesus’ commissioning of the twelve apostles to preach the “good news” of repentance, forgiveness of sins, liberation and salvation through Jesus. Just as God sent the prophet Amos to preach repentance to ancient Israel and St. Paul to preach the good news of salvation to the Gentiles, so Jesus sends forth his followers to proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom and to bring healing to those who need it most. Why did Jesus send the Apostles in pairs? Because according to Jewish law, two witnesses were needed to pronounce a truth.
The Key point here in God’s mission is that He sending nobodies! If you are a manager or CEO of a company, and if you are recruiting people for the business, how would you go about it? You get their resume, you get their reference letters, you look at their work history, interview, screening etc. etc. But when it comes to the kingdom of God, God is just selecting random people without any kind of qualification. That simply tells us that each and every one of us are good enough for God because He does not create junk. It is also important to know that we are not the one doing the work of evangelization. Holy Spirit is the primary agent of evangelization and we make ourselves available to the mighty hand of the Holy Spirit and He will make use of you in a new way.
To me evangelization has two aspects: Helping people to encounter Christ who never had the opportunity to do so. And then, helping people who already know Christ, to take their relationship with Him to a new level, or deeper level. To me, that is where we need to start right now. Some data and statistics compel us for that action. The pew research shows that 30% of the Americans who are raised Catholic are still practicing their faith. When we say they are practicing their faith, attending Mass at least once a month. 38% of the Americans who were raised Catholic hold onto their catholic identity; but seldom or rarely attend Mass. 32% of the Americans who were raised Catholics no longer consider themselves as Catholics. 10% of all adult Americans are former Catholics. Now you tell me, do we have a need for re-evangelization?
What is re-evangelization? Those of you who happened to raise children will certainly understand my example. Think about the day how excited you were when you 1st came to know that you are expecting a child. How happy you were when the child was borne. What about the day child 1st crawled, spoke a word, the first day of the school, 1st Holy Communion etc. etc. As the child grew, your love for the child also grew within you! The amount of heart pain you experienced, when the child graduated and went off to college. With the change in ways of communication today, even parents would learn how to use email or skype or Facebook or whatever it takes to just to keep in contact with their children. But just as the parents would find ways and means to keep in contact, the children would be the ones who are not that keen or interested. They would easily get distracted with college, boyfriends and girlfriends and other priorities of life. That breaks the heart of the parents. Getting distracted with less important things is a problem in any relationship. That is what is happening with many people in their relationship with God. God is that loving father, who is always longing to hear from you and listen to your stories. But because of our silly distractions, we easily get distracted and fail to communicate with God. That breaks His heart. That is why God sent prophets. That is why God sent Jesus. That is why Jesus sent the apostles. 2 Corinthians 5: 20 says “So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God”.
In the light of the scripture reflection, I am not asking you to walk from town to town preaching on street corners, unless you believe that’s your calling. I am asking that you consider what your calling is, what Jesus is asking you to do. Being part of Christ’s Church is about all of your life, everything you do, everything you say. He has summoned you, He is sending you, and what is he asking you to do?
This is what you can do today here at St. Louis! We need action:
We depend on clergy and other professional staff to be our primary caregivers. We think, it is their duty and not mine! I want all of you to think about it and pray about it and then tell me what you can do to help me in this process of evangelization in your personal life, your family and may be your best friends.
We confuse method with mission. Methods are what we do – some we don’t have the power to change (e.g., prayers in Mass), but some we do – programs / events / classes / planning / etc. Mission tells us why we exist. It is the engine which drives the car. We don’t get anywhere without it. When we make changeable methods into sacred cows – we start to forget what our mission is and make the methods more valuable. Newspapers that won’t go digital (and have gone bankrupt) – are good examples of other organizations that have confused method for mission. So, what are we in the business of? Reporting news or making newspaper? Programs and events or making disciples? We have to move from a maintenance mode to a mission mode!