Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 11th July

Mark 6:7–13

Jesus called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

It would be beyond our doubt that God could have spread his gospel and his salvation to the entire world effortlessly without the help of human beings. Yet he chose us, the created, who are weaker when compared with God, to spread the gospel. The choice shows God’s divine love and understanding of our human nature because He once lived among us in Palestine. Today’s gospel shows how Jesus, who is God, trained his chosen apostles for the mission of evangelizing their fellow me and women.

Let us see how Jesus prepared them for the mission. First, the apostles had been quietly trained. They had heard his teachings and they had seen the miracles worked by him. This basic training is necessary and essential because what they would eventually do in their mission was to bring his teachings and the story of his life and miracles to all men and women. At the point of their following of him in today’s gospel, what they had seen was yet to be seen fully, what they had known about him was yet to be fully revealed. Nevertheless, they knew at this point that Jesus wanted to show them the Kingdom of God among mankind.

It was also at this point of his teaching that Jesus would like to send them out on a temporary mission. They were sent out by pairs to go to the neighbouring towns and villages preaching repentance, casting out demons and healing the sick. Although these tasks of the mission were important, they are only the means of the mission and not the goal of the mission.

The goal of the mission was to prepare the apostles to trust absolutely in God’s providence. They were to take neither food nor money to buy them, thus making them rely entirely on God’s divine providence. They carried one staff to support their walk. They carried no bags in which they could store any extra food given them. The apostles on the mission were worse off than beggars who had bags of different sizes to store up anything found. In their possession were a pair of sandals and one tunic. When one tunic sufficed, an extra tunic would be treated a kind of luxury.

An explanation is necessary here about Jesus’ instruction: “Where you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place.” First, it is the oriental hospitality that sets no limits to the sojourn of a guest. Thus, if a guest leaves the home that has accepted him would be to insult the kind host. Second, the apostles must accept the kind of hospitality bestowed on them. In other words, the apostles could not be picky about their hosts and the hospitality.

Meanwhile, we should also note how Jesus asked the apostles to react to those who refuse to accept the gospel. Jesus told them, in such circumstance, they simply depart from such house or place immediately by shaking off the dust on their feet. It was an action performed by a Jew signifying that he was cleansing himself of all pagan contamination.

Being Christians, we are all charged to be witness of Christ. But God is mercy and gives all peoples the freedom to exercise our free will to accept this good news or not. It is not for us to condemn those refuse to believe Christ, but it is for us to remember those people who refuse the gospel in our prayer and to believe that God continue to show his mercy and divine understanding and love towards them. Amen.