The Gospel today puts a great demand on the disciples of Jesus as “He instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no haversack, no coppers for their purses. They were to wear sandals but, he added, ‘Do not take a spare tunic.’ I have often wondered why would Jesus demand such hardship of His disciples. Wasn’t it enough that they have already made so many sacrifices and now this?
Some Bible commentators suggest that the reason Jesus told His disciples to “take nothing for the journey,” may have been because they could travel lighter and faster without the burden of carrying a lot of possessions with them; some others say it may have been because in this way, they would have to depend on other people for their food and shelter. This meant the apostles would have encountered more people and it would have provided them the opportunity to “preach the good news”.
Whether it was to help them travel light or seize the opportunity to meet more people, in this first sending of His disciples as described by Mark in his Gospel, Jesus wanted the disciples to understand that just as God gives them power and authority over sickness and demons, it will be God too who provides them with their physical needs.
Reading the Gospel this Sunday, it is highly probable that our eyes will befall on the command to “not take anything” when Jesus sends out His disciples. However, we shouldn’t dwell unnecessarily on the things Jesus says His disciples will not need. Our focus must be on why Jesus sends His disciples out – to continue the work He began. A key fact that many of us tend to miss is that as Jesus sent them out, He gave His disciples “authority” that would help them minister both to the spiritual (preaching) and physical (healing) needs of the people.
Remembering that two thousand years ago the disciples were called, chosen, sent out, and given a mission, the Gospel this Sunday calls us to recognise our own calling and to seek to know what God asks of us in these challenging times. Our world is always in need of preaching and healing but perhaps in these challenging times, our preaching and healing must be demonstrated in our love and service towards others.
Being a disciple of Jesus and more importantly, as evangeliser, we are called to share not only words, ideas, or doctrines, but an experience, our experience of God and of Jesus. There are many people around us who are in need of support in one way or another. It could be food or emotional support and perhaps not all of us are able to do this. But what we can do at a time when God seems either silent or distant? As we are all weathering this storm together, we have the opportunity to be a beacon of hope to those around us.
The uncertainty of the pandemic brings both fear and suffering. However, let us remember that even in a time like this, “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.”
Hope never fails us and all we need to do to regain that hope is to look at the cross since the hope brought by Christ’s cross “is like a beacon that indicates the port to ships that are still afloat on stormy seas.” (Pope Francis).
The authority that comes to us from Jesus Christ is to be that beacon of hope that points to God and none other. During these times, let us remember that every action we take, however small it may be, to show God’s love, mercy and compassion is a way of bringing hope to people that the day will come where we will live in a better world.
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (11 July 2021)