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Set my people free

July 8, 2015

Matthew 10: 1-7                      Wednesday 8th July

Yesterday I was saying how Jacob went through a theophany that completely changed his life. It was the culmination of a long and painful process, but God had plans for Jacob: once he had engaged with God, Jacob experienced a life-changing moment. This is sometimes described as repentance. Re-thinking. Jacob’s life experiences, his personality and unique qualities were moulded by God towards something good. A new outlook on the world.

I mentioned last week that Jesus had said to His disciples, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”[1] And here in this gospel we see this beginning to come true. Jesus is sending out his disciples to do as He has been doing: “and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness.”

Today’s gospel shows this process at work in those disciples of Jesus who were to become known as the ‘Apostles’. What is interesting is that the people Jesus chose, that is, the people God chose, were very ordinary. They came from a variety of backgrounds. They all had different personalities. Today’s gospel lists them and in the process of naming them and putting them in a particular order, and pairing them up, the evangelist Matthew is giving us an insight into the dynamic of the group. For example, Peter is named first. He wasn’t the first disciple to be recruited, but the gospel is making clear who is in charge. It’s the first – Peter, the first Pope to be chosen by God.

In sending out his Apostles He gives them precise instructions, because they are still learning. [Incidentally, have you noticed how I keep saying how Jesus is ‘sending them out’. That is what the word ‘apostle means.]

And the final line sums up what Jesus’ ministry is all about: It’s about proclaiming that the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ This ‘Kingdom of heaven’ is the one we pray for every time we say the Lord’s Prayer: ‘Thy Kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’. The Kingdom of heaven is for us ordinary men and women to go out and build here and now in this world. It’s a kingdom in this world where the people give up doing what they think is right and doing what God says is right. It’s a world where God is honoured and obeyed. And because of that, it will a better world. Unfortunately, with the world full of stubborn, self-centred people, with human beings being what they are, this is something that is not going to happen overnight. But we have faith, inspired by Jesus’ example and words, that this kingdom is indeed in the process of coming to completion.

The significance of going out into the world to “cure every disease and every illness” is that such miraculous works frees people from those very things that limit their potential. The Apostles are being sent out to set people free.

As ordinary people, we modern-day Christians still believe this to be true. Our lives have been changed by sharing in the power and authority of Jesus Christ. Not only is that power and authority evident in us through our baptism, with the Holy Spirit within us at all times, we also share the sacraments of the Church to strengthen us in our daily lives. We can then go out of church this morning with a prayer on our lips:

Father in Heaven, I freely offer myself to you today to be an obedient disciple you have chosen. Mould me to your will through your Holy Spirit, and send me out to use those qualities, gifts and talents you have freely given me, to help build your kingdom of heaven on earth, through your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.

[1] John 14:12

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