15th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)
There is a weed in my garden commonly known as Bishop’s Weed (Aegopodium podagrariaI). Were it not for its resemblance to Poison Ivy this invasive and vile three-leaved specimen surely would never have been allowed to flourish. I have attempted many times to destroy it including most recently pinching off the leafy part of about 2 million stems, taking care not to disturb the root lest it get the memo I am out to kill it, and hoping that by defoliating the plant and preventing the process of photosynthesis it would perish. However, this method has been a complete failure. Instead of death by starvation, this little bugger taunts me by sending up hundreds of new shoots. Every stinking morning there they are, waving their perky little annoying crowns at me. Oh, hello, Susan! Have a beautiful day! Grrrr. Why I oughta…
Then I read the Gospel for this weekend’s liturgy, the 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time, and it occurred to me that the foe in my garden might better be called the Disciple’s Weed. For this plant’s persistence amidst adversity is analogous to the missionary identity and activity of the first evangelists, Jesus’ disciples.
After being rejected by his people in Nazareth [MK 6:1-6], Jesus took his message to the surrounding villages. In Mark’s gospel, one now senses in Jesus an urgent need to spread the good news of the Kingdom of God. He summons the twelve, authorizes them with powers so they too can participate in his mission, and sends them off in twos. Even though they frequently misunderstood him, he trusted the twelve to get it right.
The scripture does not say how long the disciples were gone nor does it say what Jesus did in the meantime. All the gospel tells us is that they could bring a walking stick and wear sandals, and they were to depend on the goodwill of others for everything else including food and shelter. In other words, the disciples were to do the work of Jesus in the exact same way he did it. And, if like Jesus’ experience in Nazareth, they entered a place where they were not welcome they were to move on, because there were many other villages and people awaiting their message of hope.
This is really good news for Christians. Jesus entrusted the delivery of his message to disciples who were slow but earnest students, just like most of us. And by virtue of our baptism we are likewise included on Jesus’ team of missioners. We don’t have all the answers, we sometimes bumble along and make a mess of things, but we persist. Jesus trusted the twelve to get it right; I believe he can trust us as well.
(I still want that Bishop’s Weed gone, though.)