After having been rejected by His own people in and about Nazareth, Jesus withdrew with His apostles and initiated a new and important phase of His ministry. He sent them out in pairs to the other towns and villages to preach in His name. Obviously, they were not preaching the paschal mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus. That had not yet happened! Essentially, they were repeating what we know as the Sermon on the Mount …the beatitudes …the values and priorities held and respected by Jesus. They represented the first vague, structureless stirrings of what was to become the church. Just take the basic necessities, He said, and have faith that as long as you are doing God's work, good people inspired by the Spirit will see to your needs.
And so they went off, each pair in a particular direction, anxious and uncertain. Faith, after all, does not obliterate anxiety. I wonder whether they had the slightest intuition that they were the first heralds of the most significant force in human history? In their hesitant footsteps would follow other concerned men and women and with them a new sense of values which, in their best context, would challenge and enrich the world for generations to come.
The process continues. Generations have come and gone. Generations which have witnessed a great deal of suffering and evil, but also much that is good and beneficial …there is no way of estimating the positive impact of authentic Christianity on human history any more than one can measure the effects of scandals such as the Inquisition, the Crusades and other dark chapters of our history. But, it is safe to say that the world has never seen an instrument for good, which compares to the words and deeds of Jesus. We continue to live in a missionary age and we are the missionaries, called to witness to values and practices, which can never be outdated. The process continues …we are still being sent and in most cases not very far …perhaps no farther than from the kitchen to the living room of our own homes.