Reading 1:Amos 7: 12-15
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 85
Reading 2: Ephesians 1:3-14
Gospel: Mark 6: 7-13
Every morning, I wake up, pour myself some coffee, and read the news. Lately, this has proven to be a descent into despair. The international community, the economy, our public discourse, everything seems to be breaking down. It’s even bad locally. This morning I read about how a man attempted to burn a gay pride flag. What was shocking about it was that it did not seem to be any planned endeavor but rather just casual violence, something to do when one is bored and drunk in the middle of the night. By the end of my second cup of coffee, I feel like we are moments away from a dystopian reality. Not so much a Margaret Atwood story (I know The Handmaid’s Tale is popular now, but I go for her Maddaddam Trilogy) of organized violence and oppression but more like the decay and collapse of our world caused by the buildup of chaos as in Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven or David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks.
This week’s readings call us forth from the pit of despair, from the flood of hopelessness. They claim – and it is a fundamental claim of Christianity – that at the heart of the universe is not despair but love and concern. The second reading – from Ephesians – is an account of how much this source of all being cares. We are “blessed” with “every spiritual blessings in the heavens.” We are “chosen” and “adopted” out of “love.” We have been brought home, forgiven, and had the “riches of his grace . . . .lavished upon us.” We have been given the “mystery”, the “plan”, and the “sum of all things.” It is a being who, in Christ, loved us in an overwhelming love, poured out generously, to bring everyone one of us into an eternal banquet of joy and fellowship.
That the heart of the universe cares, that God cares, and that God will bring about this reality is what Christians are called to believe. We are to trust, as the Psalmist sings, that God “proclaims peace”, that “justice and peace shall kiss”, and that “truth shall spring out of the earth.”
The challenge we Christians face is not just to believe this. In fact, it would be so easy to believe this good news as a kind of escape from the despair we face in the morning, in the face of our current world, or on Thursday afternoons. It could be an opium, a nice fantasy to keep us distracted for the time being.
Rather, the challenge Christians face is to go out and live like we believe that God loves us and that God will bring about a world where “justice and peace kiss.” Thus, Jesus sends out his disciples to cure, forgive, and heal and doing so without regard for one’s own benefit. “Take nothing for the journey” — so Jesus’ disciples go out and act as if the world is truly governed by love.
Jesus is not naïve however. He knows that the disciples will not always be welcomed, having to leave towns so fast that the dust flies off of their shoes. Jesus is well aware of Amos, the author of the first reading, who is called by God to prophecy but finds, in doing what God calls him to do, he is told to shut up and go home.
Still, Jesus calls us to act and act as if we are loved, as if love is the center of the universe, as if God cares about each person. We might not see this love in the morning news, not see it if our world decays into a dystopia. We may not even see it if we go out and faithful live according to God’s will. Yet, we must act knowing that, despite what may come, the greater and deeper reality is God’s love.