(For the audio version of this blog, please visit: http://brothersinchristcmf.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/Mass-Blog-for-the-Eleventh-Sunday-in-Ordinary-Time-2023.mp3)
As the Godly mission to save humanity from itself is depicted throughout the Bible, it almost reads like “mission creep.” That’s a military term defined as “the gradual or incremental expansion of an intervention, project or mission, beyond its original scope, focus or goals, a ratchet effect spawned by initial success.”
In Sunday’s first reading from Exodus 19 (Ex 19:2-6a), God tells Moses to tell the Israelites, “If you hearken to my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my special possession, dearer to me than all other people.”
That conditional “if” means we are participants in God’s mission. It may also explain why the Old Testament has so many books. Humanity’s lack of cooperation caused that mission to creep along with the intervention of many prophets.
Even in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus’s mission seems to creep from stage to stage, starting when he commissions his 12 apostles with these instructions: “Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 9:36—10:8).
But in Chapter 15 Jesus meets a Canaanite woman who begs him to save her daughter from the demon possessing her. “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” he answers. But the woman seems to shake up his mission by helping him redefine it. “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters,” she replies. Moved with compassion, Jesus says: “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”
By Chapter 22 we have the parable of the Wedding feast, Jesus’ story of a King who invites the “usual suspects” in his circle of friends to the wedding feast of the King’s Son. Their lackadaisical response angers the King, who then changes his list of invitees: Then he says to his servants, “The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.” But when the king comes to meet the new guests, some aren’t properly prepared. “How is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?,” the King asks. The lesson here: “Many are invited, few are chosen.”
Finally, by Chapter 24 Matthew envisions the end of his Master’s mission, and the end of the world: “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come.”
But it took a reformed enemy of Christ’s gospel to start expanding its mission beyond Israel to all nationalities within his reach, starting with Romans, then to Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians and beyond—through new disciples who volunteered for service in God’s mission.
Paul explains to the Romans (Romans 5:6-11) how enemies of the gospel, such as he was, can be drawn out of their Limbo of confusion and move on to God’s Kingdom:
“If, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, once reconciled, will we be saved by his life? Not only that, but we also boast of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
Humanity’s salvation was Christ’s passion, and Paul describes the passionate deliberation his Master suffered before crucifixion: “Only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
We’re all going to die. The question we must passionately ponder as we look at our own life’s mission is, what and who would WE be willing to die for?