The faith today; adopted, abandoned or adapted? Wednesday, 14th week in ordinary time – Matthew 10:1-7
Matthew chapter ten is the second of the five discourse that are found in the Gospel of Matthew. This is called the mission discourse because of the call of Our Lord to his twelve to go out and proclaim the Good News (verse 7). The mission discourse, as we will see, had a call to be commissioned (verses 5-15), the consequences of answering that call (verses 16-23) and finally the courage that Jesus gives us to face that call.
You need to read chapter ten of the Gospel of Matthew as a composite piece before you say yes to God’s call to commission. I guess, if someone had asked to me to read this chapter before I joined the seminary, my yes may have wavered. The commission of Jesus and his mandate to preach the Good News is intrinsically frightening because the Good News when preached is always followed by bad news.
But not to anticipate the whole text at once, we dwell on the commission of Jesus in today’s reflection. Jesus we are told, summons the twelve. From this point on they are no longer ‘disciples’ for they are now ‘apostles.’ The word ‘apostolos’ in Greek translates as one who is sent. It is for this reason that Mary Magdalene is also called the ‘apostle to the apostles.’
What ought to strike us immediately is that Jesus shares his authority with the twelve. Jesus is no solo artist who wants the glory for himself. He has come with the mandate of the Father to bring about the kingdom of God and to bring that to fulfilment, ‘all hands ought to be on deck.’ Our Lord does not give some authority but gave them all authority. He entrusts ordinary, unlettered men with the most spectacular powers; authority over unclean spirits, authority to cast out spirits and authority to cure every disease and every sickness.
The text of today gives us the names of the chosen twelve. While the other Gospels tell us that Andrew was the first to be called by Jesus, Matthew mentions Simon first giving him the primacy that was bestowed on him by Jesus later in the scriptures. The list gives us a brief running commentary with each name. It either gives us their relationship or their profession or their race but it is only in the case of Judas Iscariot that his sinful action of betrayal is attached. It would be a tragedy if our lives, like Judas, was remembered for the sin by which Our Lord suffered because of who we are or what we do today.
On reading this call to mission, you get the impression that it seems to exclude people rather than be inclusive. Why would the Lord mandate the twelve to proclaim the good news but then exclude the Gentiles and the Samaritans. It seems that Our Lords focus was only on the ‘lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ How do we answer this?
The mandate to mission may sound exclusive in this text but make no mistake this mission will later on take a larger perspective. The Gospel of Matthew will end with the ‘great commission’ (28:16-20) to ‘go therefore and make disciples of ALL nations, teaching them to obey everything that the Lord had commanded.’ For now, that is not the focus of Matthew; for now, the focus was to deal with those who most needed the Lord.
It was the house of Israel that was LOST. It was the house of Israel, the chosen ones of God, who had lost their way because their shepherds had abandoned them. We are told of the compassion that Jesus had for them in Chapter 9:36, just seven verses before this mandate. A compassion that was driven because Our Lord saw the “crowds harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (9:36). It is not that Jesus excludes some from being ministered to when he sent the twelve out. For the present moment, Our Lord focuses on those most in need of his message and his mercy.
There are lost sheep today too. His sheep that have chosen to stray or have been misled by false shepherds or simply those that chose not to graze in green pastures under his crook and staff. Sadly, sheep have also fallen prey to wolves masquerading in sheep’s clothing. So many are lost today and the Lord needs his Good News to be proclaimed to them too.
Today, while the mandate to proclaim the Good News and to evangelize among those of other faiths may seem to be the primary mission, there is today a burning need to re-evangelize the lost sheep of Israel. So many Catholics who have abandoned the faith, adopted other faiths if not adapted the faith at the cost of sealing their fate. We too are called to be apostles and like them to even suffer the fate of martyrdom.