Living in the age we do, with all its technology and modern convenience, Jesus’ summoning the twelve, at least for me, is a little hard to swallow. It’s hardly the alluring advertisement for evangelization and disciple-making candidates! No food, no money, just a walking stick and sandals! Not even a second shirt! But if you dig a bit deeper, you hear that “Jesus gave them authority…” Read: Jesus gave them the tools they needed. There was nothing out of the ordinary about the first disciples—fishermen, tax collectors—all ordinary folks. We are all called to be disciple-makers. What the gospel tells us is in order to become that, we need to divest ourselves of what keeps us from sharing the Good News. When we do that, the Lord equips us with what we need, just like Amos, again an ordinary person—a shepherd and arborist—who the Lord sent forward to ministry. And just like the apostles, God meets us where we are, gives us the tools we need, and sends us to be his hands and feet and voice. “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet, but yours.” (Teresa of Avila) As we walk with our walking stick and sandals, let us pay particular attention to how we can be Christ visible in the world. How will we let the Lord meet us where we are? Where will we be his hands, his feet, his eyes, his compassion in the world?
Over my years in ministry, I have heard many different interpretations for why we take up practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving during Lent. I’ve heard that we take up these practices for the sake of suffering as Jesus suffered. Another common theme is that we do these practices as a form of penance for our sinfulness, or that we take on these practices as a kind of personal testing, as Jesus was tested in the wilderness, to see if our faith holds up. The list goes on.
While there is some element of truth in each of these interpretations, what they lack is that they often make the practices ends in themselves. We suffer for the sake of suffering, or undergo a test for the sole purpose of saying we did it.
But the Gospel for today shows us what we are truly aiming for: transfiguration, transformation. This passage from Mark is widely understood as a revelation of the true reality of the crucifixion—that what on the face of it looks to be gory destruction, is actually the glorification of Jesus Christ. So too, our Lenten practices are not meant to be just brutal sacrifices for the sake of brutal sacrifice; they are meant to be transformative. They are meant to bring about the glory of God through our own transfiguration. The goal of Lent is not suffering, it is conversion. We too are meant to be “dazzling white.”
So this Lent, may we keep this perspective as we strive and struggle to hold fast to our resolutions. May we remember the ultimate goal is conversion, and allow the Lord to use our successes and failures to lead us closer to Christ and make us more Christian, more Christ-like.
What does it mean when St. Paul implores us to preach the Gospel? Does that mean we need to know every word of scripture and shout it from a soap box on a street corner? While this could be one way, I would argue St. Paul is talking about a more personal Gospel.
I once knew someone who was fond of saying that the Bible has many chapters, but it is only the first chapter in the larger Gospel, the Good News of God. She claimed each one of us, our individual stories, are a continuation of that Gospel. We all have episodes of time where we feel close to God, but then something, like sin, separates us from Him. He then restores the relationship with us, causing us to turn back to Him and His Church. Each of these personal stories that we hold in our hearts are little Gospels. When we tell others of these stories we are doing what St. Paul implores in 1 Corinthians 9: 16-19 .
When I first became Catholic, I hesitated to share what God did in my life, because I thought I might sound crazy to others. However, in every instance, when I thought it would be poorly received, I was met instead with open minds and curiosity, even while working in the secular world as a recruiter at ManpowerGroup Solutions.
As Simon says to Jesus in the Gospel of Mark 1:29-39, “Everyone is looking for you.” Everyone around us is looking for a savior, most spend years searching in the wrong places. It is our responsibility to share Jesus, by sharing the Gospel He works in our lives, with them, so they might see and hope in Him.