“ Jesus called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and He gave them authority over the unclean spirits.”
Does this bring memories to you? After an extensive training course or long years studying in university or college or seminary, the time has come for you to go out and actually do what you have been trained to do? , What about the first job? In today’s gospel we are not told how the disciples felt or if they were apprehensive about Jesus’ commission to them. What we do know is that He gave them responsibility to act without his being present. Indeed human formation requires more than observation and training: it requires action.
Jesus obviously trusted them. Interestingly, they were not really ready for mission; they had so much still to learn. Yet their formation could happen only through their own activity, and through the questions that their activity would raise and make real for them. This is also our mission and commission, like the apostles we are being sent out, each according to our ability and training. It seems to be part of the human condition, that learning occurs mainly in the doing.
Perhaps one aspect of the message of the Kingdom is that imperfection does not disqualify us from mission or from responsibility. Why? Because through Jesus, The Holy Spirit works in us. On the contrary, imperfection can proceed towards further growth only through the assumption of responsibility. Aren’t you amazed at the way Jesus thrusts them into the ministry? He did not give them power to perform little miracles; like we do with our new starters. No, He gave them authority over the unclean spirit. Because He knew that “He who lives in them is greater than the world”
In the issues that matter, people are always out of their depth. Their mission was not to recruit further disciples. It was to further the Kingdom. The Kingdom was what mattered. The Kingdom is what matters still. The purpose of the Christian community was to proclaim God's Kingdom, and other interests of the community were subordinate to that. The Christian community was not an end in itself, but a means to an end, and so it is still today. We are here to cast out demons and to proclaim and increase the Kingdom Of heaven.
Jesus was also clear about the nature of their involvement. They were to engage with, to name and to confront the evil of their world with the energizing power of Jesus. This confrontation would occur not with the weapons of evil, the futile effort to destroy evil with violence. Jesus shared with them his authority, the 'outflowing of being' and of life. Jesus had confronted untruth with truth, violence with respect and love - they were to do the same.
He sent them out in twos, perhaps for two reasons. A reminder that we never stand alone, and that no one should boast of their own power. They were to travel light and without money, an outward sign of humility and trust on others’ generous nature.
Given the sense of urgency behind their mission, they were not to waste time waiting for any who refused to embrace the message to have a change of heart. The gesture of shaking off the dust was not original, but was a cultural way of showing disdain. As Jesus would say “those who have ears let them hear” or “do not cast your pearls to swine.” Here Jesus is teaching us possibly the toughest lesson to learn, to be humble to let The Holy Spirit do the work and for us not to exercise control or force on anyone.
“ May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ enlighten the eyes of our heart that we may know the hope to which we are called” Ephesians1. 17-18