“Go forth with this message,” says Jesus, “the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Observing Hebrew reticence in speaking the name of God, these disciples are to speak of the longed-for mercy, justice and compassion of God’s already present and gracious reign. In their own persons, the twelve are to do as Jesus has already done: “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.”
In taking up this mission with Jesus, the twelve are called to radical dependence on the provision of God.
And so are you and I.
Jesus says to us,
‘You have received this miraculous power not by buying rights to it but as a free gift. Therefore, you in turn must offer the fruits of this power without seeking any financial remuneration. Carry no back-up supplies nor clothing nor means of protection, but like day laborers be content with what is offered you for sustenance. With no ‘props or perks,’ the mission is to be carried out in utter vulnerability, with no defense, apart from reliance on God for all needs of body, mind and heart.
Take the risk of depending in humility upon the hospitality of others. Offer your peace (or rather the peace which passes all understanding) which you have from God. If your message and service meet only hostility or indifference, ritualize your withdrawal of the peace offered, then leave and let go of the outcome. God alone has the integrity to judge ‘success or failure’ and God can accomplish what you cannot beyond your imagining or generosity.’
However, you friends may well be saying with me, ‘I am no miracle worker! How can I possibly receive let alone exercise this kind of self-offering, self-forgetting ‘power’?
First, I believe, we must begin where we are, as students and servants of a loving teacher and guide. Pray for the humility, the ‘strength’ to let go of our pretentions to knowing what is ‘in’ others, for we do not even know what is ‘in’ ourselves. God alone knows, and loves, and sustains us beyond our pride and weakness. This truth is itself a miracle and gift in which we are called to wonder and adoration of the One who brought us into being and has always sustained us.
As for curing the sick, the grace of God revealed among us has made possible ‘miraculous’ cures through human ingenuity and insight. Yet we are to offer the further cure of healing. Such healing comes from God, also, and it is manifested by our presence with the sick in their suffering and fear, doubts and needs. Our prayer with and for the sick ‘re-mind’ and refresh them to be open to all that God has done and will do for them. This is the healing which leads to wholeness and integrity of body, mind, and spirit, whether or not a cure is possible.
Perhaps we may indeed be enabled by the rising of Jesus to bring life to those who have died in the flesh. Yet first, I believe, we are asked to bring hope and healing to those who have “died” in spirit. Our visceral compassion and presence to those in any need or trouble is the first and most important step in the power to raise others from death.
Similarly, ‘cleansing lepers’ does not consist alone in the curing of disfiguring skin diseases. ‘Cleansing” first comes in our willing solidarity with and presence to those in any way marginalized or outcast, discounted or dehumanized. Our mission to these ‘lepers’ begins with a call to community, to the first living signs on earth of the nearness of God’s holy reign. We are to be at one with Jesus in receiving all who will receive us, and love them into fullness of being in the community of God’s strong, suffering, and wholeness-making love and companionship.
As for ‘casting out demons’, we begin by being messengers of the truth, of the way things are in the world as it is. We are to side with those who cry out for justice, in structures political, economic and of religion. Mindful of our baptismal renunciation of “all evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God”, we are called to name injustice wherever we see it – to work for the eradication, and to bring healing and hope to those wounded by such ‘demons.’
Today as so often when called to preach the good news, I find myself preaching an exhortation by the Spirit’s prompting to all who listen, but especially to myself. The message of Jesus to us is to seek the grace to become the ‘miracle workers’ which each of us is in God and in company with one another.
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