1) Opening prayer
through the obedience of Jesus,
your servant and your Son,
you raised a fallen world.
Free us from sin
and bring us the joy that lasts for ever.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading – Matthew 10,7-15
Jesus said to his disciples: “As you go, proclaim that the kingdom of Heaven is close at hand. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those suffering from virulent skin-diseases, drive out devils.
You received without charge, give without charge. Provide yourselves with no gold or silver, not even with coppers for your purses, with no haversack for the journey or spare tunic or footwear or a staff, for the labourer deserves his keep.
‘Whatever town or village you go into, seek out someone worthy and stay with him until you leave.
As you enter his house, salute it, and if the house deserves it, may your peace come upon it; if it does not, may your peace come back to you. And if anyone does not welcome you or listen to what you have to say, as you walk out of the house or town shake the dust from your feet. In truth I tell you, on the Day of Judgement it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.”
• The Gospel today presents the second part of the sending out of the disciples. Yesterday we have seen that Jesus insists in directing them first toward the lost sheep of Israel. Today, we see the concrete instructions to carry out the mission.
• Matthew 10, 7: The objective of the mission: to reveal the presence of the Kingdom. “Go and announce the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand”. The principal objective is that of announcing that the Kingdom is close at hand. This is the novelty which Christ brings to us. For the other Jews there was still a long time before the coming of the Kingdom. It would have come only after they would have done their own part. The coming of the Kingdom depended, according to them, on their effort. For the Pharisees, for example, the Kingdom would be attained only after the perfect observance of the Law. For the Essences, when the country would have purified itself. But Jesus thinks in a different way. He has a different way of reading the facts of life. He says that the hour has already arrived (Mk 1, 15). When he says that the Kingdom is close at hand or that the Kingdom is already among us, in our midst, he does not mean to say that the Kingdom was just arriving at that moment, but that it was already there, independently of the effort made by the people. What they all expected was already present among the people, gratuitously, but the people did not know it, nor perceived it (cf. Lk 17, 21). Jesus is aware of this, because he sees reality with different eyes. He reveals and announces to the poor of his land this hidden presence of the Kingdom in our midst (Lk 4, 18). It is the mustard seed which will receive the rain of his word and the warmth of his love.
• Matthew 10, 8: The signs of the presence of the Kingdom: accept the excluded.How should the presence of the Kingdom be announced? Only through words and discourses? No! The signs of the presence of the Kingdom are above all concrete gestures or acts, done gratuitously: “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out the devils. You received without charge, give without charge”. This means that the disciples should accept within the community those who have been excluded. This practice of solidarity criticizes both the religion and society which exclude, and indicates concrete solutions.
• Matthew 10, 9-10: Do not take anything for the journey. Contrary to other missionaries, the disciples of Jesus should not take anything: “Provide yourselves with no gold or silver, not even with coppers for your purses, with no haversack for the journey or a spare tunic or footwear or a staff, for the labourer deserves his keep”. This means that they have to trust in the hospitality of the people. Because the disciples who go without anything, taking only peace (Mk 10, 13), show that they trust the people. It is certain that they will be welcomed, that they will be able to participate in the life and the work of the people of the place and that they will be able to survive with what they will receive in exchange, because the labourer deserves his keep. This means that the disciples should trust in sharing. By means of this practice they criticize the laws of exclusion and recover the ancient values of community living together.
• Matthew 10, 11-13: To share peace in the community. The disciples should not go from house to house, but should seek persons of peace and remain in that house. That is, they should they in a stable manner. Thus, through that new practice, they criticise the culture of accumulation which characterized the politics of the Roman Empire, and they announced a new model of living together. Once all these requirements were respected, the disciples could cry out: The Kingdom of God has arrived! To announce the Kingdom does not mean, in the first place, to teach truths and doctrine, but lead toward a new fraternal manner of living and of sharing starting from the Good News which Jesus has brought to us: God and Father and Mother of all men and women.
• Matthew 10, 14-15: The severity of the menace. How is such a severe menace to be understood? Jesus has brought us something completely new. He has come to rescue the community values of the past: hospitality, sharing, communion around the table, acceptance of the excluded. That explains the severity against those who reject the message. Because they do not reject something new, but their own past, their own culture and wisdom! The objective of the pedagogy of Jesus is to dig out from the memory, to recover the wisdom of the people, to reconstruct the community, to renew the Covenant, to reconstruct life.
4) Personal questions
• Today, how can we put into practice the recommendation not to take anything for the journey when going to a mission?
• Jesus orders to seek for persons of peace, so as to be able to remain in their house. Today, who would be a person of peace to whom to address oneself in the announcement of the Good News?
5) Concluding Prayer
God Sabaoth, come back, we pray,
look down from heaven and see,
visit this vine;
protect what your own hand has planted. (Ps 80,14-15)
This reflection is by the good Carmelites at ocarm.org