Jesus said to the twelve, ‘I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.’
Jesus said to the twelve: what you are to say will be given to you at that time.
I wonder how many of us can remember those moments when we put off a task because we felt tongue-tied or totally devoid of what we call ‘inspiration’? It is certainly common for the student with an essay to write, the person with a public presentation to make and, sometimes, the minister with a sermon to deliver. In today’s reading Jesus is speaking to those twelve ordinary men whom he called into his service. None of them were called because of their learning and eloquence, and yet they were all being sent out to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is not difficult to imagine the apprehension and confusion that went through their minds as the reality of their calling dawned upon them. Surely Jesus was the teacher … how could they be expected to take on that role?
Francis of Assisi is reputed to have said: Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary. Whether the saintly founder of the Franciscan Order did say these words or not is of no particular importance, but the truth that lies within them should be at the core of our Christian faith. Proclaiming the Good News is not so much about what we say, as it is about how people perceive the sincerity of our faith in our actions and in our interactions with others. There will certainly be times when we need to speak of our faith but, Jesus tells us, when those times arise, we will be given the words we need.
It is common for those who work in the arts, the world of painting, literature and music, to speak of inspiration. Of course, to inspire, in its original meaning, is to breathe in. To be truly inspired is to have taken in all that surrounds us and then to respond to what we have seen and heard. When we say we are inspired, we should be saying that we have worked hard to produce a piece of work, not that we came across it by chance. Similarly, Jesus tells us that our going out and our proclaiming the Good News, alongside our study of scripture and our life of prayer, will mean that when the time comes we will be given the words we need to share the Good News with others.
Let us pray that we might be constantly ready for the promptings of the Holy Spirit in order that our life of faith might become real to others.