Today’s Gospel is about CARRIERS. I know that this word does not have a pleasant meaning nowadays. We associate it with people who are infected with the dreaded coronavirus. We are told to be extra careful not just because we can get infected by people we don’t know are carriers, but also because we may be carriers of the virus ourselves and may unwittingly infect others, especially the vulnerable ones among our loved ones.
It is easier to deal with the so-called symptomatic potential carriers—meaning, they are not well and they know it. At least they can take the necessary precautions so as not to spread the disease to others. The real challenge is dealing with carriers who don’t show any symptoms at all. You have no way of avoiding them. And the challenge of all challenges is if we happen to be that kind of carrier ourselves and we don’t know it!
Our Gospel is about a different kind of CARRIERS. No, not the negative but the positive kind. Oops, even “positive” does not sound very positive anymore. I am not referring to those who have undergone a swab testing and have come out positive of the infection. I am referring rather to the mission entrusted by Jesus to his disciples: to be CARRIERS of the good news of the kingdom of God.
We read today from Matthew 10 where Jesus is selecting twelve from among his DISCIPLES and is giving them instructions as he sends them out on a mission to be his APOSTLES.
Somebody once asked me, “Disciples chosen to become apostles? Is there a difference between “disciples” and “apostles”? I always thought they meant the same thing.” My answer is, “They are related, but not the same.” Related, in the sense that one cannot become an apostle without first becoming a disciple. But different, in the sense that not all who became disciples also became apostles.
The Christian disciple is literally a student or a follower. S/he has been called to follow the way of Jesus. The apostle is sent to promote the way of Jesus; s/he is chosen from among those who have followed. The discipleship is not completed until the follower becomes a participant in the mission of Christ.
The apostle, as a carrier of the Good News, is personally chosen and sent to represent Jesus the sender. Take note, s/he is being sent, not as a substitute but as a representative. It is not his/her task to take the place of Jesus. The task is to make Jesus present, to stand on his behalf, to speak and act so that it is Christ who is heard, seen, and personally encountered through his/her person. S/he carries nothing except Jesus Christ, the Lord and Master.
For this to happen, for us to participate in the life and mission of Christ, our second reading today says we have to participate, first and foremost, in the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus—the Christ, the Son of God. The key word PARTICIPATE is important. It is basically the same as FELLOWSHIP OR COMMUNION.
First, participation in his passion and death. Meaning, the readiness to do as he did, the readiness to offer or give up all—including family, friends, or even oneself, one’s personal wishes and plans for oneself.
Remember Peter in that scene in the Gospel when he asked Jesus, “Lord, we have given up everything to follow you. hat will there be for us?” And Jesus answered and said in Mat19:28 “Amen, I say to you… everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life.”
The youngest of the apostles, St. John, regards nothing else as a reward, than the LOVE OF CHRIST. That’s why he calls himself “THE DISCIPLE WHO IS LOVED.” I don’t think he is suggesting that he is the only one Jesus loved. I think he is telling us that that is what it basically means to be a disciple: not that you love Christ, but that you are loved by Christ. Your love for him is merely a response to his love for you. In that sense, discipleship is about the invitation to respond to the love of God by being a friend of Christ. (Remember the song DAY BY DAY?)
Did he not say, “I no longer call you servants because a servant does not know what his master is doing. Rather, I call you FRIENDS.” (John 15) Discipleship is about the call to enter into a relationship with Christ, a call to friendship with the Son of God who offers the love of God. It is a covenant. It is a call to a personal commitment.
That is why he had to ask Peter, DO YOU LOVE ME? before he could entrust to him the mission of shepherding his flock. It is all he asks of his disciples, if we want to be able to represent him. How can you represent someone you do not know? Because he has loved you and you have responded with love, you can now stand on his behalf, you can represent him, you can be his CARRIER.
St. Paul said this beautifully, “I have been crucified with Christ; the life that I live is not mine. It is Christ who lives in me… I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.” (Gal 2:19-20)
Apostleship is participation in the resurrected life of Christ already in the here and now, not only in the end of time. Our mission is to be carriers of the love of Christ that heals wounds, forgives, sins, renews and transforms us not just into images of God, but into children of God.
The apostles were CARRIERS. That is why they were told not carry anything else. They are instructed by Jesus to carry no other message but the good news, no other treasure but the kingdom of God. They are to carry in their persons no one but the person of the one who has loved them and given up his life for them as their friend and master, Jesus Christ. For the apostle, to live is to share in the suffering and death of Christ so that it is not we anymore but the risen Christ who lives and moves in us and through us.
How do we live out our apostleship in the time of this pandemic? The COVID-19 infects basically our lungs and adversely affects our physical health. But Satan can use it to also infect our minds, hearts and souls if we allow it to condition us into thinking only of ourselves and our survival. Remember how Jesus said, “Do not fear those who can destroy only your bodies. Fear rather him who can cast both body and soul into hell.” Let us not allow our souls to be infected by the vicious virus of Satan. Like the COVID-19 that attaches itself to a cell in our lungs and then replicates itself in every single cell, Satan too has the tendency to replicate himself when he attaches to our souls. He makes us this, speak and behave like him.
The apostles have taught us how to be positive carriers of the Good News of Christ—by inviting us to take part in his redeeming mission, his passion, death, and resurrection. If Christ already lives in you, if you are already participating in his passion, death and resurrection, then you are ready to be sent by him apostle. It means you are ready to become his carrier—positive, not with COVID-19 but with the love of Christ. You can also take part in his mission to heal, to reconcile, to expel evil spirits, to bring about the kingdom of God, so that we live life ON EARTH AS IT IS ALREADY IN HEAVEN.
Le me now propose the prayer of Ignatius of Loyola as a beautiful summary of what it takes to become an apostle. It means the readiness to offer your whole being to Christ. He says, “Take Lord and receive all my liberty, my memory, understanding, my entire will. But give me only your love and your grace. THAT’S ENOUGH FOR ME.”
Homily of Bishop Pablo Virgilio David for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, June, 28, 2020.