The Gospel passage for this Sunday (Mk. 6:30-34) has the apostles returning to the Lord after having been sent out on mission to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God, to heal the sick and to aid the weak and the poor. The evangelist makes note of a “power” being conferred on the apostles in order to acomplish these tasks. It is quickly realized that the power mentioned here is neither economic nor political because those first disciples clearly had neither. The “power” that the disciples went forth with were obedience to Jesus, the proclamation of his words and repeating the Lord’s gestures of mercy. Through these simple powers great things happened and the apostles return full of excitement to share their experiences. We can imagine the affectionate expression on Jesus’ face on their return and in their recounting of what had happened.
Today, the Gospel gives us a different way than just the economic and political to affect the world. This is a needed message for our time so steeped in materialism. This influence of materialism can be witnessed in society’s fixation with the “material” power of economics and politics as the only ways to really get things done. What the Gospel offers is a different way and a way that is more authentic and more human. It is a power that truly heals and touches the human heart.
In our Christian heritage there is a famous quote that states, “Christian, forget not your dignity!” In relation to today’s Gospel I think we can say, “Church, forget not your power!” I am not saying that there is no place for economics or politics – lets not be naive – but also lets not forget that the true power of the Church resides in neither of these.
The power of the Christian community (the power to which the Church alone is the steward) is threefold:
1. obedience to Jesus,
2. the proclamation of his words,
3. repeating the Lord’s gestures of mercy.
Obedience to Jesus. Jesus is Son of God, Son of Man and Lord of history. Why do we keep searching for other lords and other messiahs? Yet, we do. There are great men and great women throughout history yet none other is Son of God and Son of Man. The primary witness of the disciples is found not in so much of what they said but in what they did. They remained with the Lord. They returned to him (as we see in today’s Gospel). When they wandered and stumbled they turned back. Even when they scattered from the cross; they gathered together again in the locked room. In times of triumph, times of struggles, and times of uncertainty the disciples remained with the Lord. There is a power found in obedience to the Lord.
The proclamation of Christ’s words. There are many great ideas, theories and achievement throughout human history and these, rightly, can amaze and astound us. We celebrate what is good and true. But even as the Church can and should learn from these achievements she must remember that the words which she has to share are authentic, true and needed for every place and age. They are words that truly bring life. The words are not of our own making; rather they have been entrusted and given to us. We are to speak Christ’s words to our world. Elsewhere in the Gospel our Lord tells us that no one puts a light under a bushel basket yet how often are we tempted to give the Gospel second place in our lives to the latest theory, psychology, philosophy or social fad? When we do so are we not, in essence, placing a bushel basket over the light of the Gospel? The words of Christ truly heal because Christ alone is the Lord of life.
The Lord’s gestures of mercy. Our Lord knew the power of gesture: he writes in the sand, he touches the leper, he sits down at the well with the samaritan woman, he heals the demoniac, he feeds the five thousand. It is interesting to note how our Lord’s gestures were directed toward the expression of mercy. Even the cleansing of the Temple can be seen as the desire to clear away a crushing and deadening legalism in order that God’s house might once again be seen as a house of mercy. The Church is at its best when it lives our Lord’s gestures of mercy – when the untouchable are touched, when the hungry are fed when the sinner is forgiven. These gestures might not make the evening news or any of the plethora of our society’s award shows but they are true, they are noted by heaven and they bring hope and healing to our world.
At the end of today’s gospel passage we are told that when Jesus disembarked from the boat and saw the vast crowd his heart was moved with pity. The people were starving. They were tired of that which failed to satisfy. We, today, are tired of that which fails to satisfy. Salvation does not come through politics nor does it come through the economy. Salvation comes through mercy – God’s mercy at work in our world, our hearts and our lives.
Christian, forget not your dignity! Church, forget not your power!