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Fear Not, Little Flock
Saturday of the First Week of Advent
Matthew 9:35-10:1, 5A, 6-8
Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” Then he summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness. Jesus sent out these twelve after instructing them thus, “Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.”
Opening Prayer: Lord God, open the Scriptures to me! The kingdom of heaven is at hand, but sometimes I feel like a sheep without a shepherd. Instruct me as you instructed the Twelve so that I can understand your word, and help me to accept the gift of following you.
- We Are the Downtrodden: What is there to harvest when the sheep themselves look so downtrodden? Where is the Church to find vocations to the priesthood, consecrated life, and holy matrimony when even the small group of the faithful who actually follow Christ are “troubled and abandoned”? We all sometimes feel needy, ragtag, and unprepared for our mission. Even little daily tasks can overwhelm us. Never fear! When Jesus looked out at his followers, it wasn’t that his chest swelled with pride at such a glorious band of apostles. Rather, “his heart was moved with pity for them.” We ourselves are silly sheep, not regal lions, and Our Lord knows this. The task given to us–to the Church–will always seem too great, but Christ asks us to remain humble and trust in him because he is the master of the harvest.
- Just Twelve?: We know from other Gospel accounts that Jesus sent out more than twelve disciples, but here Matthew mentions only these dozen. What are so few workers for so great a harvest? This passage gives us another illustration of God’s logic of election. He chose Abraham and decreed that through him the nations should find blessing. He set apart his people Israel to be holy, in order to become a light to the nations. He chose the prophet Jonah to preach to the massive city of Nineveh. God elects his chosen ones because he loves them and so that through them many may be saved. The Church may always be small, but she is called to be holy for the sake of the many outside her gates.
- Our Mission: So let the adventure begin! Let’s preach the word, cure the sick, serve our neighbors. The stakes are high indeed, but if we begin generously with the few (“the lost sheep of the house of Israel”), we will, by God’s grace, help save the many (“the harvest is abundant”). We have received the gift of Christ’s love and mercy without cost; now we are to give that gift to others without counting the cost.
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, please give me courage so that I do not despair at the size of the task before the Church. I want to be your close disciple; I long for intimacy with you. When you send me out, please remain with me, O Master of the harvest!
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will look for ways to preach your word boldly.
For Further Reflection: The Next Christians: Seven Ways You Can Live the Gospel and Restore the World, by Gabe Lyons, is an excellent primer on “mission.”
Written by Br. Erik Burckel, LC.