Better Together

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

July 11, 2021 – 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 6:7-13

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Today’s gospel recalls the time when Jesus sent out his first followers to communicate to others his message and report on his deeds. Yet he was not a soloist but a communal one who sought the help of others. So, he nurtured disciples not just for their own good, but for them to reach out to others, to spread the Word of God to the ends of the earth, a project by the way that continues to this day.

What’s especially notable to me is that he sent them out in twos. Would it not have been more efficient to send them out individually? Then they could cover more ground. Make more contacts. Be more efficient.

But he didn’t, and I think for good reason. The message and the ministry of Jesus is not intended as a private reality. It was to be shared. It was to be lived communally.

This makes me think of Pope Francis, who, when asked where he would like to live as pope (traditionally, it was assumed to be at the papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace) surprised everyone when he said he’d prefer to live in Domus Sanctae Marthae (St. Martha’s House) named after the close friends of Jesus, Martha, Mary and Lazarus, who lived together in Bethany, just outside Jerusalem.

St. Martha’s House was built a few years before as temporary quarters for those having business with the Holy See. Or as a residence for elderly cardinals during a conclave. It is comfortable but in no way luxurious. Pope Francis explained his choice for living arrangements as pope with the simple words, “I must live my life with others.”

What a brilliant summary of the essence of living the Christian life! While we all need restful and prayerful moments of solitude, even more do we need to live a vibrant life with others. Recall that in the mind of Jesus the second commandment (love thy neighbor) is intimately connected with the first commandment (love God). At the Last Supper, Jesus said that we should love one another as he loves us.

Returning to why Jesus sent out his first disciples “two by two,” we touch on something very important in our faith. As I write this with the pandemic lessening, Catholic parishes are beginning to open to full participation in the Eucharist by all parish members. This is not just “to fill the pews” but at a deeper level, it is to embody a central aspect of the Christian life. Echoing Pope Francis, we are to live our lives with others whenever we can.

©David M. Thomas, PhD


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