DEC 5. ADVENT. WK. 1. (B) SAT. MATT. 9.35 - 10.1,5-8
Jesus made a tour through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness.
And when he saw the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.’
He summoned his twelve disciples, and gave them authority over unclean spirits with power to cast them out and to cure all kinds of diseases and sickness. These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them as follows: ‘Go rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. And as you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils. You received without charge, give without charge.’
In this reading Jesus makes several points to his disciples, the first being to make very clear what his own mission was, namely: “teaching in the synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness”.
Central to each of the activities mentioned here, Teaching, Proclaiming and Curing, is the art of “giving” to others, and of not living for oneself; - and this is the distinguishing feature of Christ’s life, and of Christianity; - a giving, and a sacrificing of oneself for others; - in this case God and Neighbour!
And Christ even expressed the divine motivation for his giving; - or loving; - and this was because: “he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd”. God’s people needed care and love, as they were literally ‘lost’ as regards having an understanding about the purpose and meaning of life!
And is this not the case today, where a large number of God’s people look for happiness and peace in possessions and pleasure, and they simply lack an understanding of what “life is all about?” Christ recognised this situation which is why he said: “The harvest is rich, but the labourers are few; - so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.’
What Christ is talking about here is the fundamental duty of Christians which flows from our Baptism; - namely to Teach, to Proclaim and to Cure! We tend to see these roles as the duties of Priests and Religious, but I do not think this was ever the way Christ saw it?
At the best of times the number of Priests and Missionaries has always been small in proportion to the level of need (twelve apostles) and I think Christ’s plan, as revealed in this reading, was always for Christians to accept the role of “going out” to the world and spreading the Good News?
There are so many ways of doing this, and again I think we have failed to appreciate or understand Christ’s message. We narrow the call within this reading to be a call for more priests as we see the spreading of Christ’s teachings and way of life to be “the job of priests”, rather than “the job of Christians!”
The truth is that the Call of Christ in this reading equates to the “Universal Call to Holiness” which is a duty imposed on all Christians at Baptism, with the way each of us answer this call being as diverse as the multitude of circumstances each of us has been given while on earth.
The central demand of the call being to seek out, and do, the Will of God!