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COMMENTARIES

The Dominicans

Torch Commentary from the Dominicans

Torch provides a Catholic homily each week by Dominican friars; past homilies can be found on their site here

15th WEEK OF ORDINARY TIME.    Year B  

Fifteenth Sunday of the Year. Fr Gregory Pearson considers how we are called to imitate the Apostles in their preaching.

Our Lord’s instructions to the Twelve in today’s Gospel make for challenging reading. Does Christian discipleship really entail that radical a detachment from material goods (without even a spare set of clothes), and if so, where does that leave those whose possessions are not quite so minimal?

It might be tempting to explain it away as simply a report of an event in Christ’s earthly life, a particular commission given to these men on this occasion. We might consider ourselves encouraged in taking such an approach by the fact that these instructions are not given to the crowds who came to listen to Jesus, or even to the large group of those who followed him, but to the Twelve – the inner core of his disciples chosen by him for a special role sharing his mission.

Yet, if this feels like something of a cop-out, that should be no surprise. Every Sunday we profess our belief in the Church as being apostolic, as well as one, holy and Catholic, and the mission entrusted to the apostles is the mission of the Church in every age. Moreover, while today we would usually associate the idea of apostolic life with the preaching mission of the apostles, in the early Christian centuries ‘apostolic life’ was one of the names given to the phenomenon of monasticism: it was the radical renunciation as much as what would later be called the ‘apostolate’ which Christians recognised as apostolic.

So how can we understand the terms of the commission given to the Twelve, and what does it teach us as we seek to live lives of Christian discipleship? Perhaps the first thing to note is the connection between the instructions on what to take (or not) and those that follow; here, as he directs the apostles about the way they are to conduct themselves when they come to the various towns, he is clearly setting out something about how their message is to be presented. It is something valuable – they needn’t be embarrassed to stay in one house for as long as they are in a particular district – and it is to be presented freely – if people don’t listen, that’s their choice, and the Twelve are told to shake the dust from their feet and move on.

In this light, we can perhaps see something of the significance of Christ’s instruction to the Twelve to travel light. Having no superfluous goods or resources, the apostles will not be turning up with any material incentives for people to listen to them, or any claim to status which might be indicated by travelling in style. If people welcome them it will be for the message they bring and the signs they work, not any indication that paying them attention might be materially profitable. Beyond manifesting the simplicity of their motives, though, the way the apostles are to travel is a witness in itself of the value of their message: to bring this news to the places to which they are sent, they are willing to do without material comforts precisely because the message of the Gospel is so much greater a comfort, a gift of so much greater value than any material paraphernalia might have been.

If the tenor of Christ’s instructions to the Twelve, then, is a model for how the good news should be communicated, does that mean that they are only relevant to those entrusted with a share in the mission of preaching that good news – clergy, lay missionaries, religious and the like? Well, no, and for two reasons. Firstly, because all baptised Christians – not only those dedicated to such a mission ‘full time’ – have a share in the responsibility for sharing the good news about Jesus. All of us should give consideration to how the way we live and the way we speak about our faith witnesses to (or undermines) what we believe. That’s not to say all of us have to embrace the radical detachment with which the apostles were charged, but it is to say that we should give consideration to what the way we relate to material things says about our values and priorities – and that, of course, touches not only on what we communicate to others, but how each of us lives the life of Christian discipleship.

Readings: Amos 7:12-15 | Ephesians 1:3-14 | Mark 6:7-13

BISHOP ROBERT BARRON

Bishop Robert Barron is an acclaimed author, speaker, and theologian. He is also the founder of the global media ministry Word on Fire, which reaches millions of people by utilizing the tools of new media to draw people into or back to the Catholic Faith.

Bishop Robert Barron

In loving memory of Johnny Harrow (JFMH)

May he rest in peace.

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