Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Claimed, Called, and Sent
Exodus 19:2-6; Psalm 99; Romans 5:6-11; Matthew 9:36-10:8
In their first few months here at Mepkin, I remember asking Brothers Ambrose and Clement: “Do you feel you’re the answer to the prayer we’ve been reciting after the Post-Communion Prayer at Mass – the Prayer for Monastic Vocations? They may not remember how they answered then but they’re still with us – they are with us now!
We may say the theme of our Readings today is very much of ‘calling.’ Do we hear in our heart God telling us that we are his people – his daughters and sons – the way he did the Israelites? At Baptism, we are named as he took us as his own! St Paul, in his Letter to the Romans, also affirmed how Jesus also did his part to reclaim us for the Father when we strayed. And with the Psalmist we acclaim: “We are his people: the sheep of his flock.”
In the Gospel, Matthew tells of how Jesus named and commissioned the Apostles. But before that, Matthew puts it in context.
When Jesus saw the crowds, Jesus had compassion for them for they were harassed – troubled and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. This is a familiar scenario all throughout the Gospel. Jesus is moved with pity, at the sight not of something extraordinary but very ordinary. He need not look for them for they are everywhere. They are always there. They even follow him. It is our world too. Circumstances may have changed, but we are still as needful as they were.
What is a shepherd for the sheep? A shepherd provides protection and guidance – protection from predators and guidance- most especially guidance to protect the sheep from exhausting aimless wandering.
It’s the same scenario for us. How many times do we realize how futile our aim and efforts are? Accomplishments seem empty and shallow when they do not bring us anywhere closer to God.
Yes, just as before, we are now the ones that Jesus looks upon with compassion. And what does he do for us?
In the Gospel, he calls on his disciples to pray that workers be sent among the lost wanderers so that they may be drawn to God like a harvest. But prayer in the abstract is not enough. We need to be open to how God would act on our prayer that may involve us. So next, we hear how Jesus commissions those he told to pray. They were chosen not because of who they were or what they can do but so he can offer them something to do or someone to be – a new vocation.
So if we obey Jesus to pray to ask the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest, we should be ready and even expect that we be those laborers!
Jesus calls and sends us to the lost sheep to tell them of the Good News of the Kingdom. Who are the lost sheep? They are the ones who already belong but somehow strayed or do not know yet that they already belong to God’s flock. They suffer and we bring them God’s work of healing the sick, of restoring the outcast, of bringing relief to all physical, mental, social, and spiritual sufferings. St John Chrysostom wrote: “Nothing is colder than a Christian who does not care for the salvation of others.” Today’s gospel may well be a call to us to break out of our little ice cubes.
But, sometimes we need not even look beyond ourselves. What part of me, of my life that do not align with my being God’s child? Today the Lord also sends us into the depths of our being to gather or recover ourselves back to God’s fold.
Jesus is the icon of God the Father. He gives a face to the love and compassion of the Father. And Jesus calls us to offer service and the Good News to all without seeking a return for ourselves. It is our Christian life to be chosen just as the 12 were chosen, sent as they were sent. Somewhere in this world, there is someone for whom I am God’s gift of his presence, of his love, of his compassion.
So finally, I share again this wonderful medieval text (among my favorites), often attributed to St. Teresa of Avila.
Christ has no hands…
He has only our hands to do His work today.
Christ has no feet…
He has only our feet to guide men along His path.
Christ has no lips…
He has only our lips to announce Him to the men of today.
Christ has no means…
He has only our help to lead men to Himself.
We are the only Bible that people still read
We are the last message of God
Written in words and in deeds.