In today’s Gospel, we see Jesus calling the twelve and sending them on a mission. He isn’t sending them on just any mission, but the Primary Mission of the Church. To go seek out the lost, curing every disease and illness. Jesus is more than a prophet. A prophet calls people to repentance. Jesus calls them to more than that. He calls them to Himself for healing and forgiveness. He calls them to a relationship.
In Matthews Gospel, Jesus tells them to go to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Interestingly, just moments before in the scripture, He had looked on the crowds gathered around Him with pity and said: “the harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few.”
Times have not changed much, humanity is still falling away from God, and we all know Catholics who have moved away from their faith. Of course, when we think of the 12 disciples here, we think of the Bishops and Priests. They are the ones who can forgive sins through the authority of the Church, hear confession, confect the Eucharist, and so on. It’s easy to think this passage speaks of only them.
So often, we get stuck in a rut of only praying for them. I don’t think Jesus ever intended that. Instead, he does want us to pray for them and keep our hearts focused on His love for them while also being a healing touch for them. How do we do that, though?
We listen. We listen, not waiting to interject our own stories but to truly hear them. We offer gentle instruction and encouragement, journeying with those we hear back to the faith, back to a proper relationship with Jesus Christ and His Body, the Church. We guide them to the Sacraments, to confession, and the Eucharist. We use our lives, thoughts, words, and actions to witness to them who Jesus is and what He means to us.
The priests and Bishops are the ones who have the responsibility of restoring them to the sacraments, of healing the division in the relationship with Christ that is broken through distance and abuse. But it’s the often the normal, day-to-day relationships with Christians like you and me, that lead them back toward the Shepherd. Toward Jesus in the Sacraments.
That starts with our attitudes. So many times when we think of a mission, or of the rules, or of all the different things Catholicism expects of us, we tend to go about it like it’s a “have to.” As if religion is a dreary “honey do” list of things you must do, or God will be angry. It’s not that at all. It’s a love letter. One that you and I get to deliver by hand. That’s the key right there. A good relationship is never an “I have to do this.” It’s always I get to do this for you! And imagine, we get to be in a relationship with God!
How do we ever contain the joy of that? The knowledge that someone out there is missing out on the greatest love story ever told? That the heart of Jesus beats in this tabernacle, waiting for our lost brothers and sisters to find their way back. We are more complete together; the body of Christ is more complete with them here.
A reflection on the readings for Wednesday of the 14th Week in Ordinary Time: July 7, 2021