A reflection by Fr. Ray Finch, M.M. (Maryknoll Missionaries), on Mark 6.7-13, at the First Mass of newly ordained priest Fr. Luis Lopez, S.F.M.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus instructed the disciples to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick—no food, no sack, and no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic.
I hate packing for a trip, but I hate even more getting somewhere and realizing that I need something that is back home. Over the years as a missioner I have been sent out many times, like we are sending Luis out today. It is an exciting occasion and at the same time a moment of uncertainty, a moment when things are just a bit beyond our control. When I think about setting out on the missionary journey I usually think about going to a new country, a new culture; I think of a long journey with a passport, credit card and a few suitcases if not the sacks that Jesus banned.
The first point I want to mention this morning is that we are all called to mission. We are all called to a missionary journey. Some of us are called to discover and proclaim the Good News in Guyana, Peru, Bolivia, China, or other faraway and exotic places, and some of us are called to discover and proclaim the Good News in our homes, schools, jobs or neighbourhoods, but we are all called to mission.
We are called to go beyond our comfort zones and go out to discover and celebrate Christ in the other person, the other culture, the other reality beyond what we know and are accustomed to.
My guess is that Luis will take a lot more than a walking stick with him on his return to Guyana. I remember the first time I went to Bolivia many years ago in the last century. I was only going for three months, but there were a lot of preparations, necessary preparations. I had to get a passport. I had to get lots of vaccinations. I had to get travelers cheques—it was before credit cards were used all over the world. I had to get plane tickets, and so on.
In today’s Gospel, I do not believe that Jesus is just talking about simplicity or being poor. He is talking about a total trust and dependence on God. No matter where our missionary journey calls us, around the world or around the block, we are called to participate in God’s mission, not our own. We are called to rely on God’s grace, strength and power. We know that we are always in God’s hand, but at times we get caught up in our own needs, plans and schemes.
Total trust in God is not about sitting back and doing nothing, but it is about always being open to where God is leading us, and being ready to say yes even in the midst of our doubts and fears.
My second point is that we have a contribution to make. We have choices and our response makes a difference but it is always God’s mission. We are called to trust in God’s power, the power of love and self-giving rather than putting our confidence in prestige, political power, credit cards or even our own schemes.
The Gospel goes on to say, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave.” In Matthew’s version of the sending he adds, “The labourer deserves his keep…whatever town or village you enter, look for a worthy person in it and stay there until you leave.”
When I started out in mission long ago, I thought that it was all about giving. I thought it was all about what I could do for others. It’s true that we are called to give of ourselves in mission but we are also called to receive.
Mission is about relationships with the people that we are called to serve, around the world or around the corner. If a relationship is to be authentic, it must be mutual. All are called to give, all are called to receive. It is in the relationship, the encounter with the other, that Christ is present. All authentic mission is mutual: we give and we receive.
This morning, with Luis in a new role, we all celebrate our common call to follow Christ and to go out in mission to proclaim the Good News both near and afar. We celebrate God’s power, the power of love and self-giving that we experience each day, and we recommit ourselves to trust in that power and contribute to its cultivation and growth. We commit ourselves to God’s mission, to God’s Kingdom. Luis, let your dual vocations to priesthood and to mission shape your life.