A Church of labourers, not supervisors – Tuesday, 14th week in ordinary time – Mt 9:32-38

A Church of labourers, not supervisors  – Tuesday, 14th week in ordinary time – Mt 9:32-38

After having preached the great Sermon on the Mount, Jesus works ten miracles in chapter eight and nine. Today’s gospel covers the last of these miracles and leads us to the second of the five discourses In Matthew’s Gospel, the ‘mission discourse’ that is found in chapter ten.

In order to grasp every pericope we need to set them in the author’s literary context and the larger historical context. The gospel of Matthew is written in the midst of great hostility towards the community of Matthew by the Jewish authorities. Having excommunicated the Jewish Christians from all synagogue services, they now bay for their blood. This hostility to the disciples and to Jesus is reflected in the Gospel of Matthew.

So it is no wonder that they see the healing of the mute demoniac as the work of the ‘ruler of demons’. Their tinted glasses of prejudice prevent them from seeing that which the people saw, ‘a sight like never been seen in Israel before’.

Matthew ends this literary section by highlighting the compassion of Jesus and contrasting it with the legalism of the Jewish authorities.  Matthew uses these transitional verses to not only introduce the magnitude of the mission but also to highlight the compassion of the ‘Lord of the harvest.’  What He preached on the Sermon on the Mount in words, He lives in the plains in deeds.

In the face of such authentic living, the disciples are charged to go and do likewise. Jesus is relentless in His mission and sets the bar high for the disciples. We are told that he went through ALL the cities and villages, teaching, proclaiming and curing for He was moved with compassion by the woes of a shepherdess flock.

In reflecting the mind of Jesus, Matthew has drafted the charges against the Jewish establishment. They have failed to be true shepherds and are actually ‘sheep in wolves clothing’ (Matthew 7:15). The Lord however is compassionate. The Greek word for compassion, splanchnizein is derived from the noun for “entrails”, “bowels” and “guts” as the seat of emotions. 

This Greek word also connotes a feminine quality because it is occasionally associated with the Hebrew word “rechem’ or womb. For Jesus, “Compassionate intercession emerges from the place where life begins” (Albert Haase OFM).  It is this compassion that comes from the depth of one being. It is this compassion that Christ would like His disciples to have as He sends them out in mission.

Finally more things are wrought by prayer and the disciple is called to pray for an abundance of workers in this most challenging task in the mission. Yet the answer to our prayer is often not someone else but our selves. In asking his disciples to pray for labourers in the harvest, Jesus intends his disciples to be the answer to their own prayers. The call to discipleship is not be supervisors but labourers; so sign up !

Fr Warner D’souza

With references from the JBC

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One thought on “A Church of labourers, not supervisors – Tuesday, 14th week in ordinary time – Mt 9:32-38”

  • Quite interesting to understand the depth of the word compassion!! It is such depth in the feelings of love, kindness that drives one to reach out beyond their capacity….


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