Mark 6: 7-13
7 Jesus summoned the twelve and began to send them on mission two by two, giving them what it takes to master the disturbed minds. 8 He gave them the strict command not to take anything with them for the road except a stick, but no bread, no bag of travel, no change in his belt. 9 He said to them, "If you can wear sandals, however do not put on two tunics." 10 Again he said to them, "If you enter a house, stay there as long as necessary. 11 And if a place does not welcome you and does not listen to you, then, after you have gone away from there, shake the dust that is under your feet to keep nothing from this place: these people will be able to see a testimony against them ". 12 After starting out, they began to proclaim that they needed to set a new direction to their life. 13 They delivered many people from their evil impulses, anointed many people with oil and healed them.
Listen to my beautiful story
Gospel commentary - Homily
I still remember the launch of the pastoral year in my parish a few years ago. The pastoral committee had prepared a large banner that read: "Our mission is to proclaim Jesus Christ to the world of today". Vast mission! But such a definition is so much at a stratospheric level that it applies to everything and nothing at the same time. Personally, I would feel a little embarrassed to find out where my own life fits in.
Yet I am used to missions. In the governmental environment where I work, each department, each division, each section has its mission, which revolves more or less around the service to the citizens and the fair application of the law. Schools and colleges have their mission. The various media such as radio, television, newspapers, magazines are also proud of a mission. The Christian tradition no longer has the monopoly of language on mission. But then how to situate our mission in relation to others?
So I want to take the time to go back to the story of Mark where Jesus sends his disciples on a mission. What is this mission? At first glance, we do not know. For Jesus simply gives them the ability to master "disturbed minds" (which translates the Hebrew meaning of impure, i.e., which escapes from normality and a certain order), without adding anything. When we know the evangelist Mark, we can easily guess that it is a matter of continuing the work of Jesus, especially since his death is looming on the horizon with the following account of the death of John the Baptist. And the picture of Jesus left by Mark is that of a man of action, who has invited people to change their lives because the world of God was more present than before, and who did not cease to act for to transform his kins physically, psychologically, spiritually. Besides, what are the Twelve doing to answer the sending of Jesus? They ask people to change their lives, delivering people from their evil impulses (psychological and mental illnesses) and healing the sick (physical illnesses) with oil anointings.
As a result of this story, how to define the Christian mission, and more specifically my own mission? It seems to me that one can not "invent" a mission, as noble as it may seem, as "to proclaim Jesus Christ". One can only "discover" one's mission. Moreover, the Gospel story says: Jesus summons the twelve and begins to send them... It is not an initiative of the disciples. Knowing that, I am overwhelmed with questions that trigger anxiety in me: "What am I called to? What does God expect of me?"
The story gives me a clue to my own mission: Jesus gives them what it takes to master the disturbed minds, ie the ability to master everything that perverts the human being. I am only called where I have the capacity to act: my mission is a function of who I am and what I can give. And that brings back the question, "Who am I and what can I give?"
When I am told: "It's amazing, you seem so passionate about what you do, you shine!" I know that I am where I am called. What I do naturally is also my own mission, and it is up to me to discover its spiritual meaning. It reminds me of Paul of Tarsus: what strength, what ardor, what love, what passion in everything he undertakes! Of course, there are those dark hours, those painful moments. When my mother worried about my sick brother, when she was not sleeping at night, it did not preventher feel how much her life was meaningful, how much she would not want to exchange it for anything other? At times, my work weighs on me and I feel overwhelmed by all the expectations and responsibilities. And yet, to know that my presence and my action help people like Mario, John, Gino, Kassem, Paul, move forward, all this makes me forget my fatigue and brings me a deep peace.
Like many people who are already in their fifties, I know that the day will come when diverse social commitments and paid work will be a thing of the past. And yet, it's my belief that the mission is not related to my list of activities. When the time will come I can no longer help with my knowledge or my skills, and will be someone who needs help, then I will remind my brothers and sisters that life is above all a totally free gift, like this child who can only shake his arms and feet.
Mission of the Christian? Mission of the Muslim? Mission of the agnostic? My answer is yes to all these questions. But I know that I continue the work begun by Jesus when, in my turn, I nourish and try to heal, and that gives full meaning to my life. I know that through my humble acts a mystery bigger than myself is revealing itself. And that makes me live!
Does the mission only target the so-called secular world? Last night a parish priest called me to share his anguish before confronting a group of priests who did not want to know anything about changing the pastoral governance in the diocese. Similarly, when one suffers from the emptiness of speech in many of our celebrations, is there not a missionary call to Christians to speak out?
-André Gilbert, Gatineau, April 2000