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July 6, 2003

Apostles

(Mark 6: 7-13)

Two weeks ago, I told you that you were all called to become saints. Last week, I told you were also called to become prophets. This week, the church tells us that we are also called to become apostles, as well. So we have our work cut out for us!

The other day I was in Taos, visiting my friend Trini who is an elder at the Pueblo and one of the last remaining experts on building adobe homes. He restored the pueblo and has children and grandchildren, and we were talking about the terrible fire and life and God, and he was telling me that every few weeks or so, for his prayer, he would go off into that mountain forest alone, and sit in meditation for days on end and commune with God. I consider him a true holy man, and at the end of our visit, he gave me an amazing blessing, saying that God was sending me out into the world as a servant of peace, to help stop all the killing on the earth and to prepare for the day when people will never ever kill one another, and I felt blessed and sent forth by this holy man of God.

As you know, the word “Disciple” comes from the same word as discipline, and it means “student.” Jesus is the teacher and the disciples were his students. The Greek word “apostle” means “one who is sent.” Today Jesus names twelve apostles and sends them out to do his work, so I thought we could look at what he did and reflect on what it means for us.

Mark says here, Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs with 3 specific tasks: 1.) to have authority over unclean spirits to drive out demons; 2.) to preach repentance of sins; and 3.) to anoint the sick and heal them. He gives them the means of travel, a walking stick and sandals, which are symbols of the discipleship journey, but he does not give them the necessities of life--no food, clothes, money or money bag. They are pilgrims, sojourners, missionaries, wayfarers, like him, sent on the journey. From now on, they are totally dependent on the hospitality of strangers, in order to learn holy dependence on God.

Then he says, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave.” During our confirmation class this past year, we were reading the Gospel of Mark, and when we got to this line, all my students laughed and thought this was the dumbest line in the Gospel. “When you enter a house, stay there until you leave it.” Why does Mark write that? Remember, Jesus was politically subversive. The Roman soldiers and death squads are roaming around and he sends the apostles out like sheep among wolves to speak out for repentance, to denounce the empire’s violence, and to heal the people. So they’re in danger. Jesus was forming an underground movement, so he gives them some concrete, practical advice. “If someone welcomes you, stay with them until you leave. Don’t go around anywhere else because it’s dangerous out there.” This is the way the early Christian movement began, establishing safe houses where the community could start organizing in each town and spread out everywhere, announcing God’s reign of justice and peace.

What’s amazing is that the disciples actually did these things. They preached repentance, drove out the demons of violence, and healed the sick.

So what does that mean for us? At some point, sooner or later, Jesus sends each one of us out on this same holy mission. Each one of us has been sent forth into the world as an apostle of Jesus, to expel the demons of violence and death; to help one another repent of social sin; and to heal one another.

So this week I invite you to reflect on these question: When did Jesus send you out as an apostle? What mission is Jesus giving you? What does it mean for you to be an apostle of Jesus? How are you fulfilling your mission as his apostle?

It is a great blessing to be sent out as an apostle of Jesus. As we reflect on our apostolic mission, we can pray: “Lord Jesus, send us out as your apostles into the world. Send us out to expel the demons of violence, war and death. Send us out to help each other repent of the sin of injustice. Send us out to heal one another, comfort one another, serve one another, help one another and love one another. Send us out as missionaries of love and peace to our families, our colleagues at work, toward everyone we meet, toward everyone on earth. Send us out as your apostles that we might proclaim God’s reign of love, nonviolence and peace here in our midst. Amen.”

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