Sunday Scripture Readings

eleventh sunday

in ordinary time, june 16

Exodus 19:2-6; Psalm 100; Romans 5:6-11; Matthew 9:36-10:8

OUR GOOD NEWS: God is with us in our troubles. Today's Gospel selection begins by emphasizing the depth of Jesus' love and concern for us. "The heart of Jesus was moved with pity" renders a Greek verb describing a "gut" reaction - "his intestines" were moved by the people's need for spiritual leadership. No indifferent or uncaring Savior, he really feels for us! Aware of his limitations as only one among so many in need, Jesus called and commissioned a group of Twelve followers to carry on his work of healing. For us, "expelling unclean spirits and curing sickness and disease of every kind" suggest a thoroughgoing holistic health care, liberating us from our anxieties and ills, bringing peace to a troubled and alienated world. "They were lying prostrate from exhaustion, like sheep without a shepherd." The people weren't suffering from overwork but from lives of aimlessness, with each day taken up with particular concerns. They needed the Good News that God was with them in their troubles, ready to help through prayer and reflective discernment. The apt image of shepherd emphasizes that God doesn't do everything for us - sheep had to eat and drink on their own - but only what they couldn't do for themselves, e.g., find pasture and water, defend against aggressors. "Twelve apostles" appears only once in the New Testament. Instead, they are called "the Twelve," since "apostle" - "one sent" - designates a calling given to many persons. Little is known from the Scriptures themselves about the Twelve, including details of their subsequent ministry and ultimate fate. It would have been easier for Jesus had he chosen like-minded men with similar temperaments, but he acted otherwise. God doesn't do things our way! For example, how would Matthew, a company man working for the state, relate to revolutionary Simon, "the zealot party member" dedicated to the overthrow of the oppressive government? Another clue concerns Philip and Andrew, alone among the others in bearing Greek names. Did they have trouble fitting in among the more conservative with Hebrew names? Moreover, they seemed to stand somewhat apart temperamentally: gentle and mild, as opposed to James and John, "sons of thunder." That they all got along with each other was itself a sign of God's Kingdom in our midst. (But, we wonder, did Jesus, as in large families nowadays, assign places at table to separate adversaries and avoid a dinnertime uproar?) The Twelve were commanded to a ministry limited to Palestinian Jews, the "lost sheep of the house of Israel." This temporary arrangement represented the first stage in Christian witness that would eventually reach out to the whole world. Proclamation in word of the Good News - "the Kingdom of God is at hand!" - would be accompanied by concrete evidence of God's Kingdom coming at last into our midst. "Cure the sick, raise the dead, heal the leprous, expel demons!" Suffering and death are the last enemy to be destroyed because they are radically incompatible with the Kingdom, which brings final-age fullness of life conferred by God through Jesus.

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