At some time in the course of his public life, Jesus sent his chosen Twelve on their first apostolic mission. Their task was twofold: to proclaim the Kingdom of God, and to heal. For this they were given power and authority: power to heal every disease and to cast out demons, and authority to announce the presence of the Reign of God, the messianic age. Their first objective was to proclaim the Kingdom to the ‘house of Israel’, not to the pagans. Did the Twelve go off in pairs or in a group, or one by one? We are not told. However, to show their complete reliance on God, they took just the bare minimum for themselves on the journey: neither staff nor satchel, neither bread nor money, not even a cloak against the weather. Their trust in God was to be total. On arrival in a village, they were to select a place to stay and stay there only, not moving from house to house. The injunction about shaking off the dust from their feet as a warning to those who do not receive them, may be seen metaphorically. Before Jews entered the Temple in Jerusalem, they washed themselves clean of all foreign dust. The apostles were told they should enter the home of each believer as they would the Temple. Their greeting on entry would be, “peace upon this house,” and their blessings would descend upon the household. The blessing implies health, prosperity and good relationships in the family, to be enjoyed only if the family was ‘worthy’ of it. One can’t help reflecting as one reads this Gospel passage, how complete was their trust in God, and how bereft they were of all human resources! And the mission worked! By contrast today, our confidence in human techniques has all but displaced our trust in God. Our faith seems to be more in technology and human skills than in the power of prayer. Is this why we do not succeed in our missions as much as we hope?
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