Mission of the 12
Jesus sends the 12 on a mission because His heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.
Troubled: concerned, worried or emotionally disturbed
Abandoned: wholly free from restraint, given up, forsaken
Sheep w/o Shepherd:
In ancient Israel the shepherd was critical for the survival of the sheep. It is hard for us to relate to this visual image because we don’t see shepherds on a daily basis.
My parents live in Montana and their neighbors have sheep. When I go out for a run or a walk up the road there are always llamas or dogs with those sheep. Without the llamas or the dogs the sheep are not smart enough to take care of themselves. They would either wander off or predators would attack them. I don’t see a shepherd but the llamas and sheep dogs take the place of the shepherd without them the sheep would not survive.
In order to understand today’s Gospel we need to understand a little about the nature of sheep and shepherding in ancient Palestine.
The sheep were primarily kept for their wool. A shepherd would keep sheep for a number of years and they learned to know his voice and the shepherd would even give his sheep names. The shepherds knew their sheep and they would call them by name.
Why are they like sheep without a shepherd? Has God abandoned Israel?
In the reading from Exodus-
- God reminds the people of what He has Done for them. He brought them out of Egypt. He bore them on Eagles wings. When an Eagle is learning to fly, the mother eagle flies under them with her wings spread out to catch them.
- This is how God lead the people out of Egypt. He supported them and now they are being offered a covenantal relationship. God asks that the people hearken to His voice (listen, give respectful attention, to give heed to, to listen) and keep my covenant.
- In return: the people will be God’s special possession: a kingdom of priests, a holy nation.
God took the initiative but the people of Israel did not listen. They did not hold up their part of the agreement.
Over the centuries God sent prophets and still the people did not hearken to His voice. They did not hear His word.
Today Christ (the living word of God) looks at the people and feels pity and sorrow.
Once again God takes the initiative. God sends His disciples on a mission to the people of Israel to proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand
A Kingdom of Righteousness and peace and Joy.
The people of God were not yet ready to hearken to God’s voice.
Paul’s letter summarizes God’s response.
God’s responds with Love and He proves His Love once again through the death and resurrection of Christ.
When we do not hearken to His voice- God does not abandon US.
He sent His Son and He followed up with the Holy Spirit. His Son continues to return to us (most visibly in the Eucharist) and the Holy Spirit continues to be active in our lives (most visibly in the life of the Church).
Today we hear of the mission of the 12 to the house of Israel. Following His resurrection He sent the Apostles on a mission to world. When we are incorporated into Christ through Baptism we are baptized into the Body of Christ.
We are called like the Israelites in the Mosaic Covenant to be a kingdom of priests, a Holy nation. Our mission is the same as the Apostles: we are to proclaim the: The kingdom of Heaven- a kingdom of Righteousness and peace and joy.
The first part of our mission is to hearken to God’s voice- Christ the word of God as He speaks to us in scripture and the sacraments.
Today we celebrate Father’s day. Fathers participate in the mission in a very special way. Today let’s honor our fathers and celebrate those who filled the role of father in our lives.
And Father’s you have been given a unique opportunity to teach your children to hearken to Christ the living word of God.
Don’t miss this opportunity.