The summertime lectionary readings offer us deep insights into Jesus’ interaction with people and a compelling set of characteristics of the true disciple of Christ. Pamper your spiritual self. See how this is true in the Gospel passages for the 15th, 16th and 17th Sundays of Ordinary Time (B Cycle, where we are right now.)
Together, these three readings give us a primer in discipleship, for if we, as Christians, are anything at all, we are disciples of Christ, who follow His generous, tender example. Baptism was our initiating moment into discipleship, but we choose, all our life, the discipleship to which we have been called.
Just as Jesus sent his disciples out (15th Sunday), so, too, we can expect to be sent to our back door neighbor or to a new colleague at work, to a fellow parishioner or to someone who is sick, to people near and far, going with others or alone. Disciples are, by definition, on mission.
We can also expect to live without a great preoccupation for the world’s goods. Jesus tells his disciples to travel light. We are tempted not only to accumulate, but also to support by our purchases goods made by international companies that uphold racism and poverty.
The disciples in the Gospel took Jesus seriously as they went out to minister. When they came home (16th Sunday) they were weary, full of stories, anxious to debrief with Jesus, and most of all, to rest.
For his part, Jesus knew that in the tempo of life and service, his followers needed to be restored. Neither the biblical disciples, nor we ourselves can go on endlessly.
Disciples who take God seriously can expect to rest.
Mark paints a chaotic picture of the scene as the disciples returned. “People were coming and going in great numbers, and the disciples had no opportunity even to eat.”(Mark 6.31) So Jesus and his followers went off in a boat to a private place. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? But guess what? It didn’t last. The fourth thing a disciple can expect is to be pursued into the wilderness.
We’ve been to the wilderness. Not necessarily places that are physically forbidding, but the world around us, fraught with social and political destructiveness. Sometimes the wilderness is in ourselves- the places to which our inner journeys take us where we feel desolate, lonely, unloved or frightened.
There, in the wilderness, the disciples thought they could do no more. They were used up. But Jesus took over. He simply couldn’t resist acting in love. And so, Jesus did what His disciples could not (17th Sunday). He fed the hungry in the wilderness until they had their fill and there were abundant leftovers. The fifth thing that disciples can expect is to participate in the imaginative generosity of God .
Here’s our checklist for discipleship: sent without pretention or hoarding, rested, pursued into the wilderness, caught up in something more than we could ever imagine or be or do on our own. Dare it all.
~Sister Joan Sobala