Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1) Am 7:12-15
2) Eph 1:3-14 or 1:3-10
Gospel: Mk 6:7-13
St. Francis of Assisi, familiar and beloved saint, is known for his love of creation and his love of poverty. As a young man, Francis experienced the glamorous attractions of his family’s wealth and many worldly delights.
Yet he was deeply dissatisfied. Even as he enjoyed youthful pleasures, Francis knew in his heart that there was more to life than the world’s alluring comforts. He searched for God — the God who was searching for him all along!
At age 24, Francis experienced a dramatic personal conversion that inspired him to follow the example of Jesus’ servant love. It was a turning point in his personal life that would, in time, become a turning point in the history of the church.
His wealthy father, Pietro di Bernardone, disowned his son who had chosen to dedicate his life to God’s service. In turn, Francis renounced publicly his family’s wealth and gave up his right to the family inheritance.
Now free of the illusions of wealth, power and fame, Francis began a life of holiness that radiated in his love of poverty and the created world. Giving up earthly possessions allowed Francis to rely on God’s providential care for his mission of preaching the Gospel.
He went on to found the Franciscan religious order, one of the mendicant communities that renewed the church in his day. His disciples took vows of poverty embracing asceticism as a countercultural sign of Christian discipleship.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus calls the 12 disciples and sends them, two by two, on a mission of preaching and healing. And it is Jesus’ instructions for the disciples’ journey that are worth reflecting on as we ponder God’s word. For Jesus tells them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick. Nothing!
The disciples are not to take food, sack or money in their belts. At first glance this might seem like an unrealistic expectation. Wouldn’t the disciples’ mission be more effective if they were well supplied with plenty of provisions for their journey?
The brief report at the end of the Gospel passage (Mk 6:30) that sums up the disciples’ success tells a different story. As they embraced the total poverty that Jesus speaks of, the disciples were able to do powerful deeds through preaching and healing.
Jesus’ words sum up a basic truth to guide every missionary disciple. To be free of dependence on the things of this world forms us into missionary disciples who learn to trust in God alone.
Our complete trust in God’s providential care does not mean we cannot plan to ensure there are enough resources for the preaching of the Gospel. It simply means that the success of our mission depends less on available resources and more on our trust in the powerful work of the Holy Spirit, who is the soul of the evangelizing church.
So even as we plan and prepare for ministry Jesus calls us to greater trust in his abiding presence as we pray, “speak to me, Lord.”
How is the Holy Spirit calling you to greater trust in Jesus?
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Sullivan is a professor at The Catholic University of America.