“He was against it”

Today’s gospel is another instance where we see Mark and Luke telling the same story from their very different perspectives. At face value, they both tell the same story. Jesus calls His disciples together and sends them forth. Simple enough, except that Mark has him sending forth the 12 and Luke has him sending the 70.

Remember, the direct descendants of Jacobs were 70, the number of holy days in the Jewish year are 70, the number of years before the construction of the second temple was 70. While St. Mark wanted to get to the point St. Luke wanted to make a point.
Both describe what to wear, how to act, what to expect. In St. Luke’s version he adds the wonderful analogy of the harvest and the number of workers. “And he said unto them, The harvest indeed is plenteous, but the laborers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he send forth laborers into his harvest. Go your ways; behold, I send you forth as lambs in the midst of wolves”. And St. Mark in his wonderfully brief way just says, “So they went off and preached repentance”. You have to love St. Mark.

There’s an old joke about President Coolidge, a man of few words. It seems the president attended church one Sunday, while Mrs. Coolidge remained at the White House. On his return, anxious that she might have missed something significant, the first lady asker her husband about the preacher’s sermon topic. “He spoke about sin,” the president replied. What did he say,” Mrs. Coolidge inquired? “He was against it.”

While both the former president and St. Mark are brief and to the point. Both may have left more questions than they answered.

Remember, the Gospel of St. Mark was primarily written for recent gentile converts, probably romans or members of the roman empire. So, it would make sense that today’s reading would not say that they went off and preached conversion? Or that they went off and preached the good news. They preached repentance but does that make sense?

When you look at the New Testament you see where it would make sense that John the Baptist would preach repentance, after all his message was all about getting ready for the messiah. Prepare ye the way of the lord. Yup, repentance. Or in Revelations, that makes sense because they are relating the end of time and right before the world ends, we should all give repentance a solid try when everything is about to end.

But when the disciples are sent forth wouldn’t you think that they would be sharing the story of God’s love for us? Here they have just spent all of this time traveling with, eating with, talking with and listening to the word of God from the actual Son of God, would they want their main message to be repentance.

The definition of repentance is “the action of sincere regret or remorse”. I think that St. Mark left out an important part. I think that in his desire to be brief he left out the disciple’s message of Gods love. I think that the first thing that these 12 or 70 did was say, “you are not going to believe what I have seen. I have seen the blind see and have seen the deaf hear. I have seen the lame walk and the unclean cleaned. I have seen a love that is personal, individual, all encompassing, all forgiving and all powerful. And I am here to tell you that all of that is directed at you.” That is what I think that these “laborers of the harvest” said. How could they not, after what they had seen, what they had heard, and what they had felt.

When making a presentation to a group of people there are two things that you want to keep in mind. First, you have to speak of what you know, of what you believe. An audience can tell when you are being fake. And second, you have to speak to something that your audience can relate to. Something that will resonate deep inside them.

The blindness that these disciples probably spoke of was the blindness of their audience. The deafness that they spoke of was probably their own failure to hear. And when their audience heard their preaching, when they heard these stories, they were so overcome by the deep love that was being poured out to them that they were filled with an enormous sense of sincere regret and remorse. How could they not?

“Oh my God I am heartly sorry for having offended you, because of your just punishment but mostly because you are all good and deserving of all my love.”

It has been said that the sacrament of reconciliation is actually the sacrament of love. God’s intense love for us and our regret for the times that we did not love Him back with the same intensity. This is true regret, this is true remorse, this is the definition of repentance.
So in the spirit of today’s gospel let me share a short prayer of repentance:

Heavenly and Almighty God, I come before you humbled and sorrowful, aware of my sin, and ready to repent. Lord, forgive me for I have sinned before you. Wash away my sin, purify me, and help me to turn from this sin. Lead me to walk in your way instead, leaving behind my old life and starting a new life in you.

Mk 6:7-13

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two
and gave them authority over unclean spirits.
He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick
–no food, no sack, no money in their belts.
They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic.
He said to them,
“Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave from there.
Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you,
leave there and shake the dust off your feet
in testimony against them.”
So they went off and preached repentance.
The Twelve drove out many demons,
and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

February 1, 2022

February 1, 2022

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