Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time| Year B
Mark 6: 7-13
Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in pairs giving them authority over the unclean spirits. And he instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no haversack, no coppers for their purses. They were to wear sandals but, he added, ‘Do not take a spare tunic.’ And he said to them, ‘If you enter a house anywhere, stay there until you leave the district. And if any place does not welcome you and people refuse to listen to you, as you walk away shake off the dust from under your feet as a sign to them.’ So they set off to preach repentance; and they cast out many devils and anointed many sick people with oil and cured them.
The instructions Jesus gave the Twelve were to travel light and rely upon others to meet their needs, which should be basic. Given the relative poverty of most of the Twelve the instruction was probably not too difficult for them to follow. Travelling with so little meant that they could not stay long in places which did not welcome them because they depended upon people to offer them hospitality.
There is a sense of urgency in Jesus’ instruction to move on if people did not listen to them. There were always more people to go to and each group effectively had one chance to hear and respond to the message. If any of the Twelve stayed for a long time in a place trying to get through to the people (even assuming they had the physical resources to do so) they could be at risk from entrenched opposition to them turning into aggression. God had his own ways with such people and the Twelve needed to move on and let him work it out.
When the message of the Gospel is being spread there are two parties, the one who gives the message and the one who receives it. Each has a responsibility in relation to the message, one to spread and one to receive. The “spreader” is not responsible for making another person receive the message.
Spreading the message of the gospel is like sowing seeds, as Jesus pointed out to his disciples. Some seeds will fall on good ground and will sprout and grow. Other seeds will fall on hard or rocky ground and will not grow.
Over time natural processes break hard and rocky ground into soil. Over time events might break down the resistance of the people who refused to listen to the Twelve. Other disciples would follow and might well succeed where the Twelve initially failed, because there had been a change in the people.
Readiness to listen is everything. In our relationships with family members, especially children, we can try too hard when they are not ready to hear what we have to say. The same is true when we try to spread the word of Jesus to others. If it is rejected then we need to move on, and let Jesus take care of working the rocky ground. When we try too hard with other people who don’t want to hear us, we set up resistance rather than acceptance.
Keeping ourselves in a listening and accepting mode is one of the biggest challenges for us as disciples. Sometimes we are not ready to listen to what the Lord is saying to us. We may think that what we are hearing or discerning is a message for others and be very busy about passing it on to them.
Everything we think the Lord is saying is first a message for us personally.