How Christ formed missionaries

In today’s Gospel, Jesus assembled his apostles and trained them to be missionaries. He admonished them to “shake the dust from their feet.” He cautioned them to avoid groups who have rejected his Gospel ideals of love and forgiveness. He reminded them that God created us without asking our permission. But God will not save us unless we accept his offer of divine love and salvation.

His words about “traveling light” direct his budding missionaries to have a spirit of freedom about their possessions so they can depend on God. This will be symbolized by their depending on the charity of others. Jesus would say that the laborer deserves compensation for his work. While it is true that St. Paul earned a living by his tent making while doing mission work, he did this to stop those critics who might accuse him of preaching the Gospel just to make money.

The money scandals associated with some TV preachers, as well as mismanagement by some church agencies, are cautionary tales that prove how wise and correct Christ’s teaching on money and mission was and still is.

When Christ’s missionaries went out to preach, they did not create a message of their own. They proclaimed what they heard Jesus say and did. They did not preach their opinions; they shared the wisdom of Jesus. Like the prophets of old, they insisted, “Thus says the Lord!” They expected more than a hearing of Christ’s message. They confronted their listeners with the challenge to repent! Agreement with nice words won’t work.

To follow Christ will demand a change in their minds and behavior. To convert to Jesus involved the hurt that accompanies abandoning sin and walking the path of Christian virtues.

Jesus required his new missionaries to be tough about the truth as well as compassionate to the poor and healing the sick. Jesus commands them to anoint the sick. Oil —from olive trees —was considered the most important medicine of that era. They anointed with oil the wounds of illness and led the people to open their hearts to Christ.

In New Testament language the term repent means both regretting one’s sins and also requires an act of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. As we are aware, oil today is part of the sacrament of anointing of the sick. Oil is also used for the ordination of priests, hands that will hold the body and blood of Christ at Mass.

In concluding this meditation, we note that Jesus trained his missionaries to be sure to take his power of love of God and people to the countless number of hungry souls in every town, city and country in the world. Missionaries are to love until it hurts. They will learn to “keep loving all classes of people even when your love is rejected and causes you great suffering.” That’s the cross that great missionaries carry.

Norbertine Fr. McBride is a popular lecturer and author of more than 40 books.