Reading: Matthew 9.35 – 10.1,6-8
Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’
Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.’Matthew 9.35 – 10.1,6-8 NRSV
Throughout the Old Testament there are prophecies which foretell the coming of the Messiah, the Anointed One of God. Those prophecies consistently speak of a forthcoming ministry of preaching and healing, of meeting every human need. When Jesus began his ministry he highlighted this as he read from the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue in his home town of Nazareth. Jesus said: Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing, and he was driven out of town.
From that moment, and as today’s reading tells us: Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. Jesus went out into the world, meeting people where the need was at its most raw and had compassion for them. Jesus met the people as they lived out their daily lives in confusion and pain, and he brought them into direct contact with God’s love.
The prophecies of the Old Testament left the world looking for a Messiah, but the coming of that Messiah was but a beginning. Jesus knew the magnitude of the task and, through his words and actions, established a community that he would charge to carry on his work until the end of time. That community, which began with twelve disciples who were given authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness, is the Church. As Jesus observed that the harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few he was issuing a rallying cry to the faithful … to you and to me.
Today we are being challenged to join Christ in his mission to preach, to heal, and to meet every human need. The question we need to answer is: ‘Are we up for the challenge?’ As we continue our journey through Advent we need to pause and reflect upon the outward-looking nature of our faith … Are we working, in Christ’s name, to meet every human need, or is our faith just an introspective, personal security blanket?