Ordinary Time, 15. Words of the Word

“As for me, in justice I shall behold Your Face; I shall be filled with the vision of Your glory. (Psalm 17:15)

O God, Who show the light of Your truth
to those who go astray,
so that they may return to the right path,
give all who for the faith they profess
are accounted Christians
the grace to reject whatever is contrary to the Name of Christ
and to strive after all that does It honor.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God, for ever and ever.

Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation. (Psalm 85:8).

Jesus summoned (προσκαλεῖται, proskaleitai) the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority (ἐξουσίαν, exousian) over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick – no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear but not a second tunic. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave. Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.” So they went off and preached repentance (ἐκήρυξαν ἵνα μετανοῶσιν, ekeruxan hina metavoosin). The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. (Mark 6:7-13).”

On the heels of rejection by family and friends in His native place, what does Jesus do? In a style characteristic of the Evangelist Mark, Jesus wasted no time and “summoned ((προσκαλεῖται, proskaleitai)” the Twelve to Him. While an image certainly comes to mind with the English verb “summoned,” προσκαλέω (proskaleo) also expresses an invitation ‘to join-in or to share-in the life of another.’ Throughout the pages of Sacred Scripture, προσκαλέω (proskaleo) is also employed to express the blessings of salvation. But this ‘joining-in,’ ‘sharing-in’ or salvation is given as a call and as a gift. The recipient is not the initiator of the action, only the gracious beneficiary. There is no grabbing or grasping here only hands open in the quintessential posture of peace, emptiness and offering.

Such an attitude enables Jesus’ to give and the Twelve to receive His “authority (ἐξουσίαν, exousian).” In the Greek world ἐξουσία (exousia) was used frequently in government contexts, expressing a proper power and control that government and its leaders possessed in order to rule over people and act in a way that was proper to officials. On the lips of Jesus ἐξουσία (exousia) is certainly a power but it expresses much more. In terms of power proper to a person, ἐξουσία (exousia) grounds the power ‘from within.’ ἐξουσία (exousia) is not a credential or technique that Jesus acquired through months of preparation and study. ἐξουσία (exousia) – literally “from the being (or as I am more fond of, ‘from the gut’)” – conveys a confidence and conviction born of trusting and knowing (cf. the Marcan Gospel episodes from the previous 2 weeks) the Other - His Father. Jesus’ “authority” lies not in being a ‘self-made man,’ His authority is anchored in the relationship He experiences with His Father. It is ‘out-of’ or from this relationship, often nourished in the desert (cf. next week’s Gospel episode) that Jesus acts. No wonder the Twelve needed nothing – with Jesus’ ἐξουσία what more could anyone want?

So why give the Twelve ἐξουσία? Simply it is for the purpose of the Twelve doing what Jesus does. Jesus enables the Twelve to act as He does for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Thus after an additional instruction or two, the six pairs go out with Jesus’ ἐξουσία and they “preached repentance.” Permit some dissecting of “preached” and “repentance.”

The Greek verb κηρύσσω (kerysso, ‘to cry aloud,’ ‘to announce’) has roots in the world of public Greek games. In that setting, image what it would take to be heard? The act of announcing, κηρύσσω, minimally required a powerful voice capable of being heard above the din of the crowd. Interestingly in the Greek world of antiquity, the person capable of κηρύσσω and doing it well became an important person in the community, occupying a prestigious social position. κηρύσσω is not so much about ‘screaming’ as it is about ‘being heard in the midst of other voices.’ While the New Testament certainly makes use of κηρύσσω in various passages, it is the action of κηρύσσω that is paramount, not the person doing the announcing, the basis of the Christian ministerial quip, ‘it is all about the Message, not the messenger.’ The point here is that κηρύσσω, especially in its original usage, is a very vibrant and dynamic word used to express the vitality of an essential message. We may be lulled into an image of preaching that is boring, monotone, blah-blah-blah, yada-yada-yada, but κηρύσσω says otherwise.

So what is the content of the κηρύσσω? The translation says “repentance.” The Greek here is once again very important as the text reads: “(ἵνα μετανοῶσιν, hina metavoosin).” The translation presents the noun “repentance” but the original Greek presents this as a verb – and it does so in a ‘hina clause.’ The Greek ἵνα (hina) is used to express purpose, ordering or direction. Actions that are the object of ἵνα are about results that are either desired or effected, in other words actions that may or may not happen. The key here is that we are talking about action, action, action – and – actions that have, by definition, outcomes one way or another. But when it comes to μετανοια (metanoia, click here for a previous blog entry on the topic of metanoia), the outcome action is partially dependent upon the will of the listener.

Thus, the Evangelist Saint Mark captures Jesus calling the Twelve to Himself to join-in and to share-in His Mission. He gives each His confident, convicted gut-level being to go forth and to speak through the noise of the day in such a way that the listeners will permit a radical and ongoing conversion in their lives to live the Kingdom of God. In doing so, we get some very concrete insights for pastoral ministry today, particularly in the arena of preaching. Ask any person on a given Sunday what a homily is and the responses will be as varied as the number of people queried. In equipping the Twelve with His ἐξουσία, we know that preaching today as in the days of Jesus’ Public Ministry demands the encounter with Jesus that sparks new relational living (a key element of the New Evangelization) so that one thinks, speaks and acts ‘from the gut’ with the mind, heart and gut of Jesus. The act of preaching requires Spirit and humanly formed art and technique to be heard through the cacophony of society with a clear view in mind that this announcing is ordered to the ongoing radial conversion of body, mind and heart; the continuous turning from the selfish addiction of sin to the Face of the Living God.

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