by Orlando Hernandez
The Gospels from Wednesday to Saturday of the 14th Week in Ordinary time all deal with Jesus’ words in the tenth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel. Our Lord instructs His Apostles on their Mission and what it entails.
In the previous chapter (Mt 9: 35-38) Jesus has been moved to pity for the people He has come to teach and heal. Even in our present time, as back then, his Heart is filled with sorrow and compassion for humanity because we seem so “troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.” Are we to join Him in crying, “My God, my God, why have You abandoned me?” I would rather try to stand up straight and cry out, even in my moments of desolation: “Resurrected Divine One, I trust in You!”
The Biblical Jesus must have accepted that this harvest of hungry souls was too much, even for Him. The Kingdom of love and salvation would require recruitment of more “laborers for the harvest” to help Him guide Humanity to Him. So in chapter 10, Jesus turns twelve of His disciples (Latin: “pupils”) into Apostles (Gk: “messengers,” “apo”: off, “stellein”: send), to be “sent off”, to teach His Message and help Him heal the world. They are listed each by name. We see that they are individual persons, imperfect human beings, like all of us. We can relate to them, try to imagine what each one of them was like, even now when we venerate them as Saints. Ready or not, Our Lord sent them off to their own people, to proclaim this “Kingdom of Heaven.”
I always hope that I am a “disciple” of Christ, learning from Him, being with Him every day, but I just cannot dare to call myself “apostle.” No, only priests, theologically trained preachers, healers and missionaries deserve this title. But, upon reading chapter 10, I feel as if Jesus is talking to me, inviting me to go out and bring this message of love and healing to the world, precisely at a moment when my discipleship is not going so well and my soul is in turmoil. I feel called to start, as always, with those nearest to me, family, friends, acquaintances, people I run into. What can I say to them? How can I become a living, talking Gospel? Is He really sending me? Is He grabbing me and shaking me out of my stupor, saying, “I need you NOW!”
Over the last few days I have read a number of spiritual writers who in different ways seem to be saying that this Apostolic mission has been lovingly given to each one of us by God, as our true journey in life: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you “(Jer 1:5). It makes sense, when we see the incredible power of newborn babies to bring joy, gratitude, and healing to those around. The deep mystery of Love seems to emanate from them as they grow up around us. But eventually they seem to lose this gift as the roughness of life begins to hurt them more and more and they become “troubled and abandoned” like most of us. The laborers for the harvest become fewer and fewer.
But the Invitation is still there, whispering within us. For His own reasons, Our Lord blesses some of us with a louder calling. The gift and grace of this invitation is the luminous Presence of our God, Who gives us the unexpected wisdom and strength to attempt the things that Jesus demands of us: to proclaim Him, to go out into the road of life and bring healing and salvation to others, beginning with our very selves. Only in abundant prayerful contact with our Lord, knowing that He is always with us, can we gain the peaceful attitude to go out as “lambs among wolves,” or “as simple as doves” in a beautiful but often hostile world. Only by following His example can we attain the humility and freedom to let go of so many luxuries and things that encumber us on our way. Only through Him can we become trusting and dependent on the kindness of other human beings as we “enter their house” and share our peace with them. It seems to me that only in the power of this Divine invitation to mutual understanding, compassion, and trust, can we begin to find healing and truly preach the Gospel to each other.
Not every one will be that “nice” to us. Again, only by prayer and constant reminder by our God that we are His beloved children, can we bear the dust of rejection, the scourge of hate, the mistrust of a wounded world, and not become discouraged, cynical, or indifferent in our quest for souls to love. That is our mission, to love, no matter what. Quietly, in trust and meekness, can we hear in the darkness the whisper of the Spirit, Who tells us “Do not be afraid.”, and infuses us with the desire and courage to proclaim, as if “on the rooftops”, before our oppressors, before the powerful and those oppressed and bitter, at the top of our lungs, that we are so intimately known by the Infinite Power Who loves us so much as to count every hair in our heads, every chemical reaction in every one of our cells, every hope or dream, shining or broken, within our souls.
How to begin? We all have our ways; I am confident of that. As for myself, yesterday I did the best I could. It has been getting harder for me to feel comfortable with my grand children. They seem more detached, cynical, argumentative, and mistrustful of their elders (may God deliver me from judging!). But I know that I love them with a crazy love that fills me with gratitude. So my wife and I ( we go out “in pairs”) decided, even though we were not in our best moods, to take all four of them to the movies. It turned out fine. They did not fight or seem bored, and gave me a surprising amount of joy. On our way back to the car I got the urge to tell them: “Listen, I just paid for your movie and for your snacks, so you have to humor me. I’m gonna pray over each of you. Think really hard about something that is bothering you or hurting you, in your body, or in your heart. Don’t tell us what it is; just think about it really hard. I will pray for God to free you from it. OK?
So I went individually to each one of them, laid my hands on their shoulders, and reminded them of how much God loved them. I told them to feel that love and asked for the power of God to heal that problem or hurt, IN THE NAME OF JESUS. Later I asked each one of them if they had just been putting up with me or if they were really concentrating on the prayer. Each one, from the ten-year old to the seventeen-year old, seemed very serious when they remembered the moment and the thing they had been praying for. This is the first time I ever did something like this with them. Too little too late? Nothing is too little with God, nor is it ever too late. Blessed be Your Name, Beloved.