SHARED MISSION – Third Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 6, Year A; Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (RC)

June 18, 2023

Revised Common Lectionary
Genesis 18:1-15 (21:1-7) or Exodus 19:2-8a
Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19 or Psalm 100
Romans 5:1-8
Matthew 9:35 – 10:8 (9-23)

Lectionary for Mass (RC)
Exodus 19:2-6a
Psalm 100:1-2, 3, 5 (3c)
Romans 5:6-11
Matthew 9:36 – 10:8

From time to time my mother used to say—usually with a tone of exasperation—”If you want something done right, do it yourself.”

Though not exasperated, Jesus seems to have been following my mother’s advice when we meet him in today’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew. He had been going about “all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness” (Mt 9:35). He had given himself over wholeheartedly to preaching, teaching, healing, and casting out demons as he proclaimed the coming of God’s reign. With a heart full of compassion, he had been responding to the needs of the people he met.

As he catches sight of the crowds, he is again moved with compassion, but now he recognizes that many workers are needed to carry out the mission. The disciples could hardly have appreciated the full import of his request to “ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Mt 9:38). As it turns out, they are the ones who will be sent out to extend the healing work of Jesus in nearby towns and villages.

At first glance, the selection of workers and the scope of the mission seem quite narrow. Although he had many disciples, he chose just twelve to be “apostles,” meaning “those who are sent.” He specifically directed them not to visit Gentiles or Samaritans, but to go only “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt 10:6).

It’s helpful to remember that Matthew’s Gospel was written for a community of Jewish Christians, many of whom were struggling with the inclusion of “foreigners” in the Jesus movement. While in this passage Matthew focuses on the mission of Jesus to his own people, the Gospel also includes a great deal of material that challenges his Jewish readers to a broader, more inclusive, understanding of Jesus’ mission. In the concluding verses of the Gospel, for example, as he prepares to leave his disciples after the resurrection, Jesus makes explicit that their mission is to preach the Gospel to all people: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19). Taken as a whole, the Gospel of Matthew both affirms the place of Israel in God’s plan and proclaims the reign of God that includes all.

Like the apostles who were sent out with “authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness” (Mt 10:1), so are followers of Jesus today sent out to bring the merciful love of Christ to those who are wounded, hurt, and unjustly treated in the world around us. The harvest is still great and the laborers are still too few. We have been chosen not only to be God’s beloved, but also to be God’s compassion in a world of need.

We cannot accomplish this work alone. As he commissioned his disciples to take up his mission, so are we called to invite others to join in the work of making whole and righting injustice in our local communities. As together we bring God’s mercy and love to those around us, Christ himself has promised to be with us always, “to the end of the age” (Mt 28:20).

A Hymn for Today: “Enviado soy de Dios / The Lord Now Sends Us Forth”

This song from Nicaragua is a joyful response to Christ’s call to go forth to serve and heal in his name. Listen here.

Enviado soy de Dios,
mi mano lista está
para construir con él
un mundo fraternal.

Los ángeles no son
enviados a cambiar
un mundo de dolor
en un mundo mejor;
me ha tocado a mí
hacerlo realidad
Ayúdame, Señor,
a hacer tu voluntad.

The Lord sends us forth
prepared to serve and give,
To make of all the earth
a better place to live.

The angels are not sent
into our world of pain
To do what we were meant
to do in Jesus’ name’
That falls to you and me
and all in Christ made free.
Help us, O Lord, we pray,
to do your will today.

Text: José Aguiar, ©; tr. Gerhard M. Cartford, 1923-2016, alt., © 1998, Augsburg Fortress. Used by permission under OneLicense #A-729857
Tune: ENVIADO, José Aguiar

Image Credit: Christ teaching the disciples, Ethiopian, 17th-18th cent., Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.

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