YEAR B: HOMILY/REFLECTION FOR THE FIFTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
TOPIC: MISSIONARY DIMENSION OF THE CHURCH
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Gospel: Mk 6:7-13
Message # 243: “Yes to the Gospel of Jesus”
1. The Marian Message
a. The message was given on the Feast of the Annunciation. The Blessed Mother recalls her encounter with the archangel Gabriel. It was this archangel that helped her open her mind to understand the Father’s plan, and her heart to receive the Word of God, and united her life with the Holy Spirit as to become His beloved Spouse (letter d). She said “yes” to God through this archangel (letter e).
b. The Blessed Mother asks us to say our threefold “yes” to God. Like Mary, we say “yes” to the will of the Father, to the Gospel of the Son and to the love of the Holy Spirit (letter f).
c. She laments the fact that the will of the Father is not followed and the action of the Holy Spirit is impeded because people do not accept the Gospel of Jesus. It is given mere human interpretation and the biblical events are explained only as legends or literary forms. As a result, people lose their faith and grave errors are spread in the Church (letter g).
d. She challenges us to receive the Gospel of Jesus faithfully, and to “announce it to the letter, live it to the letter” (letter h). In effect, what she is saying is for us to become zealous and faithful missionaries of the Gospel of Jesus in a world fraught with errors and enveloped in darkness. She said: “Be living gospels, and then the plan of the Father will be accomplished and the fire of the love of the Holy Spirit will purify this world” (letter i).
2. The Sunday Gospel
a. Background: There is a big difference between a disciple and an apostle. A disciple is a follower, a listener, a student. The word apostle comes from the Old English “apostol” via ecclesiastical Latin from Greek noun “apostolos” (messenger), derived from the verb “apostollein” (send forth). In other words, an apostle is not anymore a simple follower or disciple. He has been entrusted by his Master or Teacher with a mission, and so he is being sent to accomplish a mission.
b. Jesus had many followers. From among them, he chose 72 disciples. And then he chose 12 apostles. They are known as the Twelve. The Gospel this Sunday is about the sending of these Twelve, and that is why they are called the Apostles. Strictly speaking, they are the apostles, the twelve pillars which served as the foundation of the Church. Hence, our Church is called apostolic, founded on the twelve apostles.
c. The number 12 is not arbitrary. It is based on the 12 tribes of Israel, the Chosen People of God. By choosing 12 apostles, Jesus is saying that the new People of God, the Church, is not his invention. Rather it is the fulfillment of the Old Testament; it is the continuation of the People of God in the Old Testament.
d. Aside from the Twelve, however, Jesus also sent on a mission the 72 disciples. (The Gospel this Sunday has its equivalent in Luke 10:1-12, which refers to the sending of the 72 disciples). Though they are not the Apostles, strictly speaking, they are also “apostles” in a way, since they were not anymore mere listeners and followers, but were also sent on mission. That is why, St. Paul, though not part of the original Twelve, is called the “Apostle to the Gentiles.” (The shift from “disciple” to “apostle” is clearly shown in Mt 10:1-2).
e. The word “mission” comes from the Latin word “misi”, the past participle of the infinitive verb “mittere” (to send). This is the same word which gave birth to the Latin word “Missa” (Mass), since the last words of the priest in the Mass are imperative: “Ite, Missa est” (Go, the Mass is ended). The word “Ite” is not meant to drive people away, but is a commissioning (sending on a mission). In other words, every time we leave the Church after the Mass we have a mission to share the Gospel of Jesus with others. Essentially, therefore, as Christians, we are missionaries, and in the wide sense of speaking, we are also “apostles.” That is why, we should not be content with just going to Church, listening to the Word of God, and receiving Holy Communion. Rather, we are challenged to become more active in sharing our faith to others, spreading the Gospel of Jesus, and becoming instruments for the salvation of mankind. This is precisely the challenge of the Blessed Mother in her message for this week.
3. Points for Reflection
a. The call of Jesus is not generic, but individual. He called his disciples by name. That is the way God deals with us: individually, and by name. We are not just a number that can be categorized, clumped together and finally deleted anytime. Each one of us has his/her sublime dignity and value as a child of God. That is also the way we should treat each other. And since Jesus calls us by name, we are personally responsible to him. Nobody else will be responsible for our actions. We have to respond to him personally.
b. But when Jesus sent his apostles on a mission, he sent them two by two, not individually. This means two things. First, the mission is not the work of the individual but by the entire Church. The presence of another in doing a missionary task is a reminder of this. And second, it reminds also of the presence of Jesus: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst.” The success of the mission is not attributed to the individual but to the communitarian efforts of the Church moving under the divine inspiration of Jesus present in their midst. That is why, if ever they are rejected by some people, it is not the apostles who are rejected but the one who sent them, Jesus. This has valuable implication to us. Let us not take our work in the Church personally. If ever we are successful, we should not brag about it. We must remember that it is not because we are the best. It is all due to Jesus who is acting through us. And if we are rejected, let us not feel too bad about it. It is Jesus they are rejecting. Jesus said: Just “shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them” (Mk 6:11). So when we are doing something in the Church, our focus should be on Jesus, not on anybody else, not on the approval of people, and not on their negative criticisms and not even whether what we are doing will be successful or not. Si Lord na ang bahala sa lahat ng iyan. Gawain niya iyan. Problema niya iyan. Reminder from Jesus: “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God” (Lk 9:62). Our duty is to follow Jesus, do the job he gave us, and move forward.
c. The instruction of Jesus not to carry money, food or extra clothing is rather interesting. During his time, this was a practical advice. Carrying anything valuable while walking in deserted areas would make a person attractive to marauders and robbers. A walking stick is truly necessary for self-defense against wild beasts and thugs. But this advice has a more profound significance. It is a reminder to the missionary that he must avoid the temptation of self-sufficiency. He is to depend on the providence and protection of God: “Seek His kingdom, and these other things will be given you besides” (Lk 12:31). And surely God will send generous souls to help them. Jesus said: “And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple – amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward” (Mt 10:42). In short, he is always to remember that it is God doing the job, and he is just a humble instrument. He has to depend totally on God for everything and maintain his humility. In that way, he becomes a very effective instrument of God. This is what St. Paul clearly realized: “Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and constraints for the sake of Christ, for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2Cor 12:10). Hence, like John the Baptist, the missionary must always make sure that the focus is on Jesus, not on himself: “He must increase, I must decrease” (Jn 3:30).
d. The message to be preached by the apostles has the same contents of the preaching of Jesus as he began his Galilean ministry: “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:15). If we are following the apparitions of the Blessed Mother, she is not saying anything new. She is just repeating the same message of the gospel: prayer, repentance, conversion and living the gospel values. At this point, perhaps it would be opportune to evaluate the preaching and homilies we hear in the Church. Do they contain the same fundamental elements? How effectively do they impart such elements in the homilies? Or do they spend more time giving jokes and funny stories rather than on proclaiming the gospel message? Are they proclaiming Jesus (“He must increase; I must decrease”) or are they proclaiming themselves, drawing the focus on themselves rather on Jesus? If repentance is very essential in the proclamation of the gospel, are the parishioners given easy access to the sacrament of Confession? Are there priests ready and willing to hear the confessions of parishioners on a regular basis? Are we serious about this sacrament? When was our last confession? Are we also zealous in bringing people to this sacrament?
QUESTIONS FOR SHARING IN THE B.E.C.
1. Sa ngayon, ano ang antas ng iyong pagiging Kristiyano: nasa antas ka pa ba ng alagad (disciple) o nasa antas ka na ng apostol?
2. Paano natin matitiyak na kay Hesus nakatuon ang ating paglilingkod at hindi sa sarili o sa sinumang tao? Pag-usapan kung paano tayo makakatulong sa mga lingkod ng Diyos, tulad ng mga pari, relihiyoso at mga laikong misyonero.