Between the last line of last week’s Gospel and the first of this week’s, but not included in either proclamation within Mass, is the passage: “And he went about among the villages teaching.” The comment provides a transition from the rejection by Jesus’ family and hometown (last week) to a preaching tour of the surrounding area (this week).
This is the first stage of Jesus passing on his power and mission to the Church. The use of the word “summoned”, in the opening line of this week’s Gospel, recalls the initial “calling” of the Twelve. The commissioning, of which we hear about this week, enlarges their role.
The instructions for the journey – what to take and not to take; say, do – are not simply traveling directives but are also preparation for the demands of discipleship. The instructions demand utter simplicity and trust in both God and neighbor.
Mark’s allowance of sandals recalls the Israelites preparing to eat the Passover meal prior to their departure from Egypt; they were to eat the meal, with “your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand” (Exodus 12:11). Some regard this as a prelude to the miraculous feeding of the five thousand recorded in v. 32 of this same chapter.
These first missionaries brought not only the message of the Lord and the call to repentance and conversion, they also brought mercy and healing. They brought not only a hand to lift from moral wreckage but a hand to lift from physical pain and suffering.
The enduring significance of this passage is its reminder to the Church – us – to never forget our origin as a community of missionaries. The Church’s self-identity is as a community that is “sent”; it is to “travel light” and to proclaim the word with conviction and fearlessness.
As we travel the road of discipleship let us be guided by the original GPS (Global Positioning System) – the word of God!
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Director of Adult Formation