The opening line of the Gospel for this weekend gives us an important message: “Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two.” With this Gospel Jesus gives us a lesson about Church and living our Faith. Jesus did not send the apostles out alone; they went out in pairs. Ministry can be challenging, and it seems that Jesus does not want his followers to go at it alone and experience a sense of failure when things do not work out as planned. The presence of other members of the community is a presence of support that allows the two to encourage each other and continue their missions. There is the tendency today for people to see their relationship with God as one that is only between them and God without a Faith Community. This is not how Jesus taught to live the faith. In Matthews Gospel he says, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” We are not called to live our faith alone. It is important to remain connected to the community. Church is often described as the “People of God” who together form the Community. Even when situations do not permit us to be present to worship together it is important to stay connected to share our prayers, struggles and words of encouragement. This is the Church that we read about in the Acts of the Apostles and is lived today in many parishes. These are communities in which Jesus is present not only in the Sacraments, but also in the interactions that build up the Body of Christ.
Jesus also gives us the instruction of how to live our faith in the context of our being a community. In the Gospel this weekend Jesus instructs the disciples that one must leave your possessions behind. In a sense he is saying not to think about possessions, think about serving the Lord. This reflects the first of the great commandments that Jesus gives us, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and all your mind.” Mt. 22: 36 – 40. Jesus is not seeking half-hearted followers, but only those who have the desire to wholeheartedly embrace him. To be a Disciple of Jesus costs all that we have. There is not room for the bargain hunting disciple, or a disciple with coupons that will allow him to save something. To be a disciple of Jesus one must be willing to surrender all to the Lord. He is very particular about this, “take nothing for the journey but a walking stick – no food, no sack, no money in your belts.” (Mk 6:8) This giving up of our heart, our will and our mind is to be done freely, for God cannot force us to surrender. He instructs, encourages and invites, but there is always the freedom to hold back.
Most of would rather avoid thinking about surrendering our possessions. Jesus tells us otherwise and his message today gives us the opportunity to take a good look at what we have and do a mid-Summer cleaning of unnecessary things in our homes. This would be a good start towards surrendering. Surrendering is an attitude of the heart that would have us see Christ as the only worthwhile possession. Changing our attitudes and hearts regarding possessions is the beginning, and once we begin we realize that the less we carry on this journey, the easier the journey becomes. Christ becomes more and more the center of our lives and all else becomes just things on the periphery.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.