Instructions for the Twelve

16 July 2006: Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 6, 7-13 Instructions for the Twelve

The episode in the Gospel today presents the sending of the Twelve on a mission to heal and to preach the Good News. The mission of the Twelve apostles was already prepared by the fact they Jesus specifically called them. Jesus gave them two primary instructions. First, that they take nothing for their journey. This means that a missionary must be poor, simple, frugal and trusting in God’s care. This is an old instruction to the present, “Travel light”. Traveling light facilitates mobility, availability and purity of testimony. Second, that they anticipate opposition: in the eventuality that people will not welcome you, shake off the dust that is on your feet. This needs explanation. To shake the dust off your feet is an act of rupture known in the ancient world. The person doing this signifies that he wants to take absolutely nothing of what belongs to the city or country judged unworthy --- not even its dust. Kung sa Pilipino, “wala akong kinalaman sa inyo.”

And Jesus sent them two by two. There is something important here: Jesus sent his disciples in pairs. Why two and not just one? First, this is to ensure mutual support amidst difficulties. The quality of our service also depends on feedback from a co-worker. A husband-and-wife team is able to rear a family better. A rector and scholastic is able to help each other grow in religious life. Second, it also means that the mission given to us is, in a sense, a community or ecclesial undertaking. When we are sent to speak and to act, we are speaking and acting in behalf of Christ and the Church, not only on our own. Here is a story when all of these points are placed together:

Breakfast at McDonald's

I am a mother of three (ages 14, 12, 3) and have recently completed my college degree. The last class I had to take was Sociology. The teacher was absolutely inspiring with the qualities that I wish every human being had been graced with. Her last project of the term was called "Smile." The class was asked to go out and smile at three people and document their reactions.

Soon after we were assigned the project, my husband, youngest son, and I went out to McDonald's one crisp March morning. It was just our way of sharing special playtime with our son. We were standing in line, waiting to be served, when all of a sudden everyone around us began to back away, and then even my husband did. I did not move an inch... an overwhelming feeling of panic welled up inside of me as I turned to see why they had moved.

As I turned around I smelled a horrible "dirty body" smell, and there standing behind me were two poor homeless men.

As I looked down at the short blue-eyed gentleman, close to me, he was "smiling". He said, "Good day" as he counted the few coins he had been clutching. The second man fumbled with his hands as he stood behind his friend. I realized the second man was mentally challenged and the blue-eyed gentleman was his salvation. I held my tears as I stood there with them.

The young lady at the counter asked him what they wanted. He said, "Coffee is all Miss" because that was all they could afford. (If they wanted to sit in the restaurant and warm up, they had to buy something. He just wanted to be warm). Then I really felt it: I smiled and asked the young lady behind the counter to give me two more breakfast meals on a separate tray. I then walked around the corner to the table that the men had chosen as a resting spot. I put the tray on the table and laid my hand on the blue-eyed gentleman's cold hand. He looked up at me, with tears in his eyes, and said, "Thank you.” I leaned over, began to pat his hand.

When I sat down, my husband smiled at me and said, "That is why God gave you to me, Honey: to give me hope.” My husband and I held hands for a moment. We are not church goers, but we are believers. I believe every good deed is always done in to benefit another, in behalf of God and the community.

I returned to college, on the last evening of class, with this story in hand. I turned in "my project" and the instructor read it. Then she looked up at me and said, "Can I share this?" I slowly nodded as she got the attention of the class. She began to read and that is when I knew that we, as human beings, as being part of God, share this need to heal people and to be healed. In my own way, I had touched the people at McDonald's, my husband, son, instructor, and every soul that shared the classroom on the last night I spent as a college student.

Any Christian then is by vocation or call, a healer. While not all have the gift to perform physical healing, nevertheless we all have the gift and the mission to heal hearts and souls just as the mother who has given hope to the two homeless gentlemen, her family, and the class she shared her experience. And finally, when we do all this, we do not do it by ourselves. People experience God by our single acts of love even when it is as simple as a “smile”.

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