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SpiritualDirection.com / Catholic Spiritual Direction

111. A Mission from God (Mark 6:7-13)

July 11, 2018 by  
Filed under Fr. Bartunek, Meditations, The Better Part

“Bury yourselves therefore in the heart of Jesus crucified, desiring nothing else but to lead all men to follow his will in all things.” St. Paul of the Cross

Mark 6:7-13: Then he summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in pairs giving them authority over the unclean spirits. And he instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no haversack, no coppers for their purses. They were to wear sandals but, he added, ‘Do not take a spare tunic.’ And he said to them, ‘If you enter a house anywhere, stay there until you leave the district. And if any place does not welcome you and people refuse to listen to you, as you walk away shake off the dust from under your feet as a sign to them.’ So they set off to preach repentance; and they cast out many devils, and anointed many sick people with oil and cured them.

Christ the Lord Jesus is not a megalomaniac. He delegates his authority; he is a team player. He is the head and foundation of his Kingdom, but he gives his followers real responsibility in spreading and defending that Kingdom. This first missionary trip of the Twelve Apostles shows that Christ is already preparing them to be his messengers, to teach and administer his healing power (grace) in his name. In recent centuries, many critics of the Catholic Church have accused it of imposing a visible, hierarchical structure on the body of Christ’s followers that Christ himself never intended. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is the purely spiritual and intangible conceptions of the Church that have no basis in Scripture or history. Jesus Christ is God, but he is also fully human, and his Kingdom, his Church, evidences that in its human structure, informed, empowered, and guided by the Holy Spirit. A faithful follower of Jesus Christ has no choice but to be a faithful child of the Church.

Christ launches this structured hierarchy in order to extend his own mission of preaching, instructing, and healing, not in order to dominate others in a political sense. St Mark makes a point of highlighting how the apostles anointed the sick, and they were healed. This is the origin of the sacrament of anointing, a vivid and eloquent example of the type of power wielded by this Lord – a power of building up, not tearing down.

Christ the Teacher  Every Christian shares in Christ’s mission. When we were baptized, we became members of his body, that same body that reaches out to men and women in every age in order to lead them to God. Every Christian shares in this apostolate. Every Christian is sent out to bear witness to Christ, to bring his wisdom and his healing touch to those who are in need, spiritually and physically. Under the supervision of the bishops (the successors to these first Twelve Apostles), we are all called to spread the Kingdom, to be agents of evangelization. Therefore, the missionary instructions that Christ gives to his first followers apply, in analogous ways, to all his followers, us included.

These instructions can be summed up in two words: trust and perseverance. Besides the clothes on their backs, the apostles are only instructed to bring a walking stick and their sandals. Every need they have along the way will be met, but it will be met by God’s providence, not by their own self-sufficiency. They are to trust in God to sustain their efforts. The walking stick and the sandals symbolize a determination to continue moving forward, to persevere in their efforts to fulfill God’s will. They must not give up. Even when they face opposition, persecution, and a cold welcome (which they will – Christ leaves no room for doubt about that), they are not to be deterred; they are to persevere. Trust and perseverance – these are two qualities of the Christian missionary (and we are all Christian missionaries, in one way or another) whose relevance will never run out.

Mark 6:7-13Christ the Friend Sometimes we might consider the obligation of spreading and defending the faith a burden, an unpleasant duty that interferes with our plans and encroaches on our comfort zone. In reality, it is just the opposite. Because Christ has put his Kingdom under our care, our lives matter. No other endeavor has, by its very nature, eternal consequences, so nothing else we can do matters as much as building the Kingdom. And when we are engaged in something that matters, our lives take on meaning – real, existential weight. And, ultimately, we all yearn for that – for meaning, for a life that really matters, one that has a real impact.

If Jesus had selfishly reserved all Kingdom affairs to himself, we would have to occupy ourselves with nothing but trivialities like business, politics, and entertainment; because he has generously put the Kingdom into our hands, these trivialities take on eternal dimensions. Because we are gifted with being men and women of the Kingdom, our actions and decisions reverberate beyond the boundaries of time and space – either for good or for ill.

John: I was just a teenager when he sent me out on my first mission. I was a fisherman from a family of fishermen, and he put the message and power of salvation into my hands and asked me to go out and deliver it in his name. No one else had ever trusted me so much. No one else had ever thought so much of me. Who would have guessed that God would be so generous with me, to make me his ambassador, to put his saving gospel into my care so I could hand it on to my brothers and sisters. That day I became not only a follower of the Lord, but his coworker. It was the dawn of a new era in my life.

Christ in My Life  Thank you for the gift of your Church, Lord. It is your chosen way of being present and continuing your mission in all times and places. I believe that you work through your Church. I believe that you love her and that you gave yourself up for her. Teach me to see the Church as you do, with love, with faith, and with affection. Never let me grow bitter because of the sins of her children…

Are you pleased with how I am living out the missionary aspect of my vocation? Am I attentive enough to the opportunities you give me to bring your truth and grace to others? I am quick to make excuses. Give me courage, Lord. Increase your love in my heart, so that I will truly love my neighbors, seeking creative ways to give them what they need most: You….

Lord Jesus, never let me relegate our friendship to an isolated corner of my life. You are interested in everything that happens in my life, and you can give all my activities, decisions, and relationships eternal value, if only I trust you enough to discard the false scale of values that society is always promoting. Thy will be done, Lord; Thy Kingdom come…

 

PS: This is just one of 303 units of Fr. John’s fantastic book The Better Part. To learn more about The Better Part or to purchase in print, Kindle or iPhone editions, click here. Also, please help us get these resources to people who do not have the funds or ability to acquire them by clicking here.

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Art for this post on Mark 6:7-13: Cover of The Better Part, used with permission. In the Villages the Sick Were Presented to Him, James Tissot, between 1886 and 1894, PD-US author's life plus 100 years or less, Restored Traditions, used with permission.

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About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college, he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller, "Inside the Passion"--the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer". His most recent books are "Spring Meditations", "Seeking First the Kingdom: 30 Meditations on How to Love God with All Your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength", and "Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions". Fr. John currently splits his time between Michigan (where he continues his writing apostolate and serves as a confessor and spiritual director at the Queen of the Family Retreat Center) and Rome, where he teaches theology at Regina Apostolorum. His online, do-it-yourself retreats are available at RCSpirituality.org, and he answers questions about the spiritual life at SpiritualDirection.com.

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