This week we encounter Jesus sending out the twelve disciples for the first time. He sends them without even the barest of necessitates: no money, no bag, no change of clothes…just a walking stick and sandals! He orders them to stay at the first house that offers them hospitality so as they get to know the village and the people in it. They are not tempted to move from house to house seeking nicer lodgings or better food.
And Jesus lets them know that, like in Nazareth, they too may be rejected by the people to whom they go. And if they are rejected, they are simply to shake the dust of that house or that whole town from their sandals and move on.
It is quite an austere image of a missionary that the Gospel paints today. Could you imagine yourself setting out on a journey, leaving your home without money, without food, without a change of clothes?…not to mention leaving behind cell phones and tablets! Imagine heading out to other towns and villages, full of excitement and trepidation with only the story of Jesus to share.
Nothing else, just the story of Jesus! In his book, Christianity Rediscovered, Spiritan Fr. Vince Donovan recounts his, and other Spiritans’, missionary activity amongst the semi-nomadic Maasai people of East Africa. Fr. Vince tells wonderful stories of people hearing, for the first time, the story of Jesus and how amazed they were and the incredible discussions that would arise around these stories of Jesus’ words and actions. After they had come to believe in Jesus they would very often seek to join this community of believers.
I remember Fr. Vince once telling me the story of one boma -- that is the name of a gathering of Maasai huts, a village of Maasai people -- and at this one boma after about a year or so of evangelization they decided to all be Baptized.
Well, Fr. Vince had some misgivings about several of the young warriors whom he felt were not yet ready to be Baptized and so he shared this with the Chief. The Chief smiled and told Fr. Vince not to worry that the rest of community had enough faith for them! For the Chief, faith was something that the community shared in common! What might be lacking in one person was made up for by the community!
Fr. Vince also shared an amazing story of one boma whose people wanted to become missionaries themselves! They asked Fr. Vince to whom would he go next to share the “Good News of Jesus Christ”? And Fr. Vince pointed off to the distance and said that there was another boma a days or more walk from them. And the Chief said that there was also another boma in the opposite direction that needed to hear the story of Jesus. So they would send their best “storyteller” to share the story of Jesus the Christ!
And to the absolute shock of Fr. Vince the Chief called forward a young woman (in a completely patriarchal society) because she was the best storyteller and they believed the story was so important they had to send their very best! And so off this young Maasai woman set on her missionary journey with a baby strapped to her back! One of the first if not the first female Maasai missionaries!
But Fr. Vince also noted that sometimes people rejected the story of Jesus and then the Spiritans, like the earliest disciples, would head onto the next village…for the Gospel exists for the sake of being shared.
And through its sharing we come to know Jesus and live in him and he in us! And so the question arises…with whom do I share the story of Jesus? How do I live the Gospel in my daily life? Is there anyone to whom I feel called to share the story of Jesus’ boundless love for us?
Blessings, Fr. Tim