for Sunday, July 12, 2009
In our Gospel reading today we hear how Jesus sent the Twelve out to
preach the Gospel in the various villages. He sends them out two by two
and gives them instructions about how to conduct themselves.
Some of these instructions might seem a bit incongruous to us: take one
tunic not two, wear sandals and take a staff; they were to take no money
There has been much ink spilt trying to work out the significance of
these regulations. Some think that they were to distinguish the Apostles
from other types of wandering preacher such as the Cynics.
But more likely Jesus simply requires his Apostles not to be burdened
with possessions and that they should obtain sustenance from the people
among whom they exercise their ministry.
The most important thing about an Apostle, though, is that he is sent.
Thatís the very meaning of the word Ėone who is sent.
We see the same with the Prophet Amos. The priest of Bethel tried to
chase him away but he said, "I was no prophet, nor have I belonged to
a company of prophets; I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. The
Lord took me from following the flock, and said to me, Go, prophesy to my
If you read the Book of Amos you will discover that he is a most
reluctant prophet. He just wanted a quiet life, but he felt the call of
God so strongly that he was driven to leave his former occupation and
prophesy to the People of Israel.
He did not feel he had the skills to be a prophet unlike the many
others who belonged to the so-called guilds of prophets.
These were people who were in love with the job and status of a prophet
but they were institutionalised and only proclaimed messages that people
wanted to hear. Effectively that meant that they werenít prophets at
Amos, on the other hand, found himself proclaiming a message no one
wanted to listen to. He is more like a prophet of doom, his task was to
warn the people of a retribution if they continued in their bad ways.
The situation of Jesusí Apostles wasnít identical to Amos, the
message they were to preach was one of hope and love. However, they needed
the same sense of urgency; they were after all, proclaiming that the
Kingdom of God was close at hand.
The Apostles were proclaiming a message of change; inviting the people
to transform their lives completely so as to merit the Kingdom.
So while they were not actually prophets of doom proclaiming a disaster
yet to come, this was the reverse side of what was a real message of hope
for the world. After all, what could be more disastrous than losing the
chance of inheriting the Kingdom.
The Apostles are given two tasks 1) to cast out evil spirits and 2) to
heal the sick. It is no surprise to anyone since these were the things
that preoccupied Jesus throughout his public ministry.
We have little problem with healing of the sick, it is, after all, a
ministry that has been going on in the Church throughout its history.
We donít, however, hear very much about casting out of evil spirits.
Many people even deny that they exist and yet we read about them on every
page of the New Testament.
We must recognise that there is evil in the world, that thee are forces
at work that drag us away from Jesus. That is, after all, what sin is;
tapping into the forces of evil which are at work in the world and which
pull us away from the Gospel values.
Sin is insidious; it starts small and grows large. It entraps us, it
seems attractive, even glamorous at first but at root it is ugly, nasty,
selfish and manipulative.
But the battle against evil has been won. It was won on the Cross of
Calvary and out of the Empty Tomb. What remains is the working out of the
implications of this victory. And we are presently living in that
in-between world between the Victory over Evil and the Last Judgement.
The devil has lost the battle but he is still dangerous, he can still
entrap us. It is our task to live good and holy lives and to fight against
evil wherever it may be found.
The Priests and Bishops have this as a special task; just like the
Apostles they have been given authority over evil spirits. Their ministry
in the Sacrament of Reconciliation is precisely about the driving out of
evil and reconciling people to Christ.
But this task is not given only to the clergy. It is one of the
principle tasks of any seriously minded Christian. We are not naÔve; we
know that the powers of evil are at work in the world, we know that evils
often disguises itself and often pretends to be good and worthwhile.
And we fight against evil by using the weapons Christ gives us; we
fight against evil with that which is good. We pray, we exercise charity,
we speak about holy things, we reach out the hand of love to the
marginalized and despised. We stick to the Gospel values, we speak up for
Christ, we identify evil and name it for what it is.
All these things are powerful weapons against the forces of evil in the
world and there is nothing soppy or weak-minded about them.
We Christians, we dedicated followers of Jesus, have our eyes open; we
are alert to the realities of life. We recognise evil for what it is; when
we see it we instinctively know that it is to be rejected. And at those
moments we should have instant recourse to prayer; we should call on
Christ to aid us and to use his power to dispel the evil that is in the
The victory has been won, but the consequences of the battle remain to
be worked out. And the battlefield is the world and indeed goes on within
our own hearts and in the lives of those around us.
Christ wants us to love him with our whole hearts but there are others
who are jealous and do what they can to get in the way and pull us away
from him. We are Christís Apostlesí, we are sent in his name, we have
authority and power. But we have, above all these things, personal contact
with him in prayer, the assurance of salvation and the knowledge that the
Victory has been won.
Readings of the day:
Reflections are available for the following Sundays: