July 12, 2015
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
7 Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. 8 He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick - no food, no sack, no money in their belts. 9 They were, however, to wear sandals, but not a second tunic. 10 He said them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave. 11 Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them." 12 So they went off and preached repentance. 13 The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
In last Sunday’s gospel Jesus had returned to his native place accompanied by his disciples. The people were astonished at Jesus’ synagogue teaching, but they found it difficult to accept him because they knew him and his family. That text concluded with Mark stating that it was difficult for Jesus to perform any mighty deeds there. Today’s gospel follows almost immediately after that text. The last half of verse 6 is dropped, which states that Jesus left his hometown and began to preach in neighboring villages. This omitted part of verse 6 gives the context for Jesus gathering together the disciples and sending them out with his authority and his message. In Jesus’ instruction as recorded here by Mark, they are permitted sandals and walking stick, but in the other synoptic gospels these were also forbidden. They are instructed not to take any money, not even the small amount that would be carried in a belt. They must rely on one of the most honored virtues of people of the day, hospitality, and also, of course, God.
Travel during Jesus' time was considered unnecessary and even a suspicious activity. Family and neighbors provided everything that a person needed. A person often died within the same household where they were born. In such a culture, strangers were naturally considered with suspicion and bringing the possibility of harm. But they also brought news of the outside world and the possibility of an allegiance that could be beneficial. Therefore, hospitality to strangers was highly valued. Guests were offered food, board, and safety from others who might be suspicious of their intentions.
Jesus sends the Twelve out two by two. Traveling in pairs would provide a degree of safety and companionship and a measure of credibility. Two is the number of witnesses necessary to establish the truth of one’s claim. Jesus sends them out also with authority over unclean spirits. The last verse of the text states that they preached, performed exorcisms, and healed through anointing. This is the same ministry that Jesus himself had taken on as described in the first chapters of Mark’s gospel, and it is what he tried to bring to his native place in the text that precedes this one. However, it is clear that the disciples do not do this on their own. Jesus has entrusted them with his power. They are his ambassadors.
1. What is your experience of backpacking?
2. When you travel, how much stuff you pack in your suitcase that you never use?
3. How would your travel be different if you took only the things you could carry? How would you experience the land, the people, and yourself differently?
4. If someone said of another that they traveled light, how many different ways might they mean that statement?
5. Why do you think Jesus sent his disciples out to preach on their own just after he had received such a poor reception in his own home town?
6. Are there times when you have had to rely on the hospitality of strangers for survival? How did the experience reveal to you your own strengths and weaknesses?
7. What would happen if two of the Twelve went into a small town and found everyone refusing to offer them hospitality, even though this was an important social duty? Think of these two standing in the middle of the town shaking the dust from their feet and shouting that they were doing this as testimony against the townspeople. What do you think would happen next? Why did Jesus instruct his disciples to do this?
8. The text states that they were successful; they drove out demons, and anointed and cured the sick! What do you think the pairs’ return journeys to Jesus and the other disciples were like?
9. How does this text speak to you? What lesson do you need to learn about being a disciple?
On Wednesday of each week, the Gospel and reflection questions for the upcoming Sunday are posted at the following link: http://il-ritiro.org/gospel-reflections.aspx. You are invited to share your own reflections and comments with others at this website.
Reflection questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM. They are edited by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF and Joe Thiel. They are translated into Spanish by Fernando Alessandrini.
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