15TH Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus summoned the twelve and began to send them out two by two. (Mk. 6:7-13)
As parishioners slowly return to Church to worship as a community, some will wonder, "Who will join them in this new age of worship?" A few familiar faces will be absent because they transitioned to heaven due to COVID19. Moreover, several members may not resume their weekly activities in the Church because of a sudden illness in their family. These members may have assumed the caregiver responsibility. Folks may also delay their appearance in Church because of the debated issue in the distribution of the Eucharist. Regardless of the justification given for not returning to Church, these seven words may be the most detrimental reason. "We never did it that way before!"
These seven words are deadly for any church community. Hidden in this toxic phrase is the sentiment that church members or pastors avoid looking at new plans. Hosea and Isaiah, the prophets of old, teach us to, "Write down the vision; Make it plain upon tablets..." (Hab. 2:2), and "Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; See, I am doing something new!" (Is. 43:18-19). Examining what we are willing to do for our Church to move forward from this point post-pandemic is critical for us today. The Church that was is gone. The Church must move forward. However, are we willing to write down the vision to see God doing something new in our faith community?
In Mark's Gospel, Jesus introduces a new vision for sharing the Good News. Jesus sends the disciples "out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits." Indeed, this was unique for the disciples. They have authority over unclean spirits to heal the body and soul; this was new to the disciples. Jesus' disciples must also elevate their trust in God by only taking a walking stick. There is no need on this missionary journey for money, food, and a sack. The dress code was one tunic and only one pair of sandals. Here, the disciples trusted in God and avoided saying these disheartening words, "We never did it that way before!"
What about you? What are you willing to do for the future of your church community? Are you okay with the pastor opening a new budget line item to have the Mass live stream for those who cannot return to church? Are you ready to reach out to people online to connect with people globally in prayer or the shut-ins?
Conversely, perhaps your challenge is to venture out by twos, inviting others to share their thoughts and gifts in ministry. Young and old, strangers and senior members have felt unwelcome as no one listened to their ideas or new methods. All they heard was, "We never did it that way before!"
Behold, God is pouring new wine into fresh wineskins today. Pray for the vision in your church community and go out two by two, spreading the Good News.
Author: Evanglist Michael P. Howard, MACS