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Saturday, 17 June 2023 11:47

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year A

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 9:36 – 10:8

Fr Elmer Ibarra 150 BestIn many Catholic houses, you will see a picture of the “Last Supper” and with it hopefully the names of the twelve apostles of Jesus. For many of us, it is the best picture that we can see - Jesus together with his band of twelve followers. Hopefully, beneath the picture are their names, which many of us would have no idea of. Maybe the only person that we could clearly identify would be Jesus, who is seated in the middle of the table and Judas Iscariot who is portrayed as holding a small bag, presumably with the thirty silver coins that were given to him by the chief priest in exchange for handing over Jesus to them later in the evening.

The harvest is rich but the labourers are few twitterThe gospel for today gives us the names of the twelve apostles of Jesus and what they were asked to do by Jesus. In the gospel, Jesus realised that he need to give his disciples a sort of “on-the-job” training. Jesus knew that if his mission was going to succeed, he should be able to train people to carry on his work after he had gone. And the only way to do that was to give his disciples authority over unclean spirits, cure all kinds of disease and all kinds of illness. Then the gospel writer enumerated the names of the twelve apostles and Jesus gave them an area where they could work and areas where they could not go.

Firstly, allow me to make some reflection on the twelve apostles. When I entered the seminary in 1999, I entered as an “associate”, meaning a seminarian that has finished a university degree and has gained some work experience. Together with me it the dorm were seven other associates, one was a nurse like me, three of them were teachers, one was a medical technician and two were engineers. We came from different parts of country and yet we were all in the seminary trying to discern if God had called us to be priests.

Jesus called his twelve apostles, who, while they were all Galileans, were of different ages and different backgrounds. We know that Peter, Andrew, James and John were fishermen, Matthew was a tax collector, Simon and Judas Iscariot were Zealots, meaning nationalists who were dreaming of an independent Jewish state, free from colonial powers. The other disciples, we have no idea about their background, however it is not so hard for one to realise that Jesus had a group that couldn’t be more different from one another. And yet Jesus called them for a purpose - and that was to spread the kingdom of God.

In Mary, Mother of the Church Parish in Macquarie Fields, on Sydney’s southern fringe, it is not so hard to see how different the parishioners’ backgrounds are. In the parish, there are parishioners from many parts of the world - from Australia where the parish is located, to India, Sri Lanka, England, New Zealand, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, the Philippines, China, Indonesia, Portugal, Samoa, Fiji, and more, and this diversity and multi-culturality is celebrated. Everyone realises that it doesn’t really matter where we come from, whether we are young or old, rich or poor, single person or a married person, we are called by Jesus to join him in this mission.

Second, allow me to reflect on the authority that Jesus has given to his apostles. While we can be amazed about the gifts that Jesus gave to his disciples, we can be slow to realise that we are also given those same gifts. While not all of us have the power to drive out unclean spirits, we do have the power to reach out to young and old people who are slaves to drugs and other negative influences like domestic violence, problem gambling, alcoholism and others. While we may not have to power cure all kinds of disease and illness, we can have the power to cure by taking care of the sick, providing food for the hungry, visiting people who are in prison, volunteering our time to teach young people who don’t have access to proper education, helping out in organisations so that people can have access to medical care. We can do a lot.

God calls us all - whatever our race, nationality, age, sex, and other backgrounds. God also gives us powers to continue his mission. Jesus trained his band of twelve men so that he would be assured that somebody would continue what he has started. Jesus now calls us to do exactly the same. It is up to us on how will we respond to his call.