The Gospel this Sunday comes from Mark 6:7-13. In the Gospel Jesus sends out the twelve apostles to preach the Good News to the people and “gave them authority over the unclean spirits” (Mar 6:7 RSV) and “they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them” (Mar 6:13 RSV). But one of the striking things is the fact that Jesus charged them “to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts” (Mk 6:8 RSV). There is an urgency in Jesus’ charge to go out and preach the Gospel. There are to be no preparations for the journey but the bare minimum; the only thing to bring is the pilgrim’s staff.
We, too, are sent out to others to preach and for us, too, there is an urgency. The urgency to preach the Gospel is so that “men should repent” (Mk 5:12 RSV). Repentance is leaving our ways which separate us from God, and returning to Him. The urgency to preach is an urgency out of love to bring others back to Christ. We should never forget what value our faith brings us, how it makes our lives complete, how it gives meaning and direction, but most of all the joy it brings to us. Faith changes our lives as it sheds light onto the darkness which we otherwise experience. It is the darkness of being separated from God, the darkness of missing something in our lives, a lack of completeness which can only be given by God. This call to bring light into people’s lives is indeed an urgent need in the modern world.
Many people might look at Christianity as some kind of an endurance test, where we just keep going, grinding our teeth while putting up with life because of the future promise of Heaven. But this is a wrong idea. The promise of Heaven does indeed give us hope, but our relationship with God, with his Son Jesus Christ, in the life of the Holy Spirit, is already here and now a reality in this world. Accepting this reality makes all the difference.
When we accept God’s invitation, when we open ourselves up to His grace, God starts to work in us, our hearts are slowly conformed more and more to the people we are called to be through some private prayer, some reflection or just some time spent with God in silence. This is not so that we work our way towards God, but this is building up our friendship with Him. We all know that time spent with a friend is the only way to bring the friendship to a higher level. When our friendship with God grows, we automatically want to share this newly found joy with others, and we, too, feel the urgency to go out and preach the Gospel.
Finally, Jesus says that when people “do not receive you and they refuse to hear you, when you leave, shake off the dust from your feet for a testimony against them.” (Mk 6:11 RSV) Jesus is not condemning the people, but giving them a sign, a sign to get them thinking. The mission is to bring to people the good news and to encourage them to repent. Repentance leads us to freedom, to the freedom of being children of God and to be close to Him. So many people do not know what it is to have God as a friend and live separated from him until somebody tells them the Good News that they are loved, that they are invited to find this joy that it is to know Jesus.