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Getting Down to the Mission Part

Normand GouinNormand Gouin, Pastoral Minister of Liturgy and Music
May 19, 2023

We’re familiar with the scene when Jesus sends the disciples out, two by two, on a mission. He instructs them to travel throughout Judea and beyond, to heal the sick, to cast out unclean spirits, and to proclaim the reign of God. And if that wasn’t challenging enough, Jesus tells them to take nothing with them but a walking stick – no bread, no bag, no money, not even a second tunic. (Mark 6:8)

In “Two by Two,” an episode from the TV series The Chosen, the creators vividly depict the disciples’ shock and resistance to Jesus’ command. We witness their barrage of protests and questions: “Rabbi, we are not you, how are we supposed to heal?” “What are we supposed to eat?” “They will kill us in that region.” “How can we do this without you?” Unphased, Jesus firmly but gently, tells them to trust him and believe that God’s Spirit will be with them. Then he departs alone.

In the first reading for the Solemnity of the Ascension – celebrated this past Thursday – we encounter a similar scene. A moment of shock and confusion for the disciples that no doubt elicited more questions: “Is he really gone?” “What are we supposed to do now?” “Where else are we supposed to look?” One can imagine how unprepared and disconcerted the disciples must have felt.

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians from that same liturgy, we hear the prayer, “May the God of our Lord…give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him. May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened that you may know the hope that belongs to his call.” What a prayer for reluctant, mostly confused disciples! And yet, the gifts offered in this prayer are what both the disciples and all of us need to move forward – to get down to the mission part.

These very gifts – wisdom, revelation, and enlightenment – are vital for the fulfillment of Christ’s mission. For it is only by remaining open and receptive to these gifts, imparted by the Spirit, that we can gain the fortitude to forge ahead with a God-sized vision of hope for the world. It is a powerful prayer that invites us to let go of the thoughts, judgments, and fear that keep us from reading the signs of the times and trusting in Jesus’ promise.

Author and educator, Mary McGlone, CSJ, equates our circumstances with that of the disciples immediately after the Ascension: “Like them, we must face the very real dispiriting events of our times, the circumstances that cannot and should not be ignored. We may share their desire to simply stand looking heavenward for a solution, but we will also hear the promptings of angels and prophets who remind us that prayer is only part of the equation.”

As we journey towards the celebration of Pentecost, may we have the courage to pray for the blessings of wisdom, awareness, and enlightened hearts. That through our prayer we will be impelled to “get down to the mission part” and act together, strengthened and encouraged in the knowledge that Christ, who sends us forth to preach the good news, will be with us for all eternity.