By Bishop David McGough
Eleventh Sunday of the Year
Exodus 19: 2-6; Romans 5: 641; Matthew 9:36-10:8
ri-lhe Book of Exodus is a timeless record of human struggle. Its description of Israel's deliverance from slavery embraces the longings of every generation. In very different circumstances we know what it is to be trapped in a world that appeals to the selfish rather than the selfless, that favours the powerful rather than the humble. In many ways our feelings parallel those of an enslaved Israel. As they were powerless against the might of Egypt, so are we powerless before the prevailing climate of indifference towards the Gospel.
At the heart of the Exodus story is a rallying cry to fresh hope. "You yourselves have seen what I did with the Egyptians, how I carried you on eagle's wings and brought you to myself. From this know that you, of all the nations, shall be my very own, for all the earth is mine. twill count you a kingdom of priests, a consecrated nation."
The words of Moses remind us that we do not stand alone as a forgotten, powerless people. The Lord has chosen and brought us to himself, has made us a kingdom of priests and a consecrated nation.
It must be admitted that our secular age does not
• dily identify with the
priestly language of a bygone age. Nevertheless, the reality beneath this language still applies. A loving God is not indifferent to the plight of our modem society. By faith we have been chosen, chosen to bring his hope to a disillusioned world, chosen to proclaim that we are not forever the slaves of what we have become. As we share this hope with those around us we become a priestly people, consecrating our world afresh to God.
The Gospel describes Christ's fulfilment of the Exodus journey. Long ago Moses had spoken to a people broken in spirit. Jesus grieved for a people harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. The words that he spoke were words of opportunity and hope rather than words of despair. "The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest." Just as Moses had described the tribes of Israel as a chosen people, leading the world to the promised land of the Father's freedom, so Jesus chose those who would share his ministry of claiming this world as the Father's rich harvest. He summoned the 12 and gave them authority over unclean spirits and the power to heal all kinds of disease and sickness. Once again the language used in the Gospel does not sit easily with modern usage. We do not see ourselves as exorcists and healers, but, as disciples of Christ, we share the redeeming grace that stands behind these words. Jesus shared with his apostles and disciples the power to heal a broken world. It is therefore the power of his Resurrection at work within us that brings hope to a disheartened world. His forgiveness. at work within us, heals the hatred and division of a broken society. With Christ we embrace a world that is harassed and rejected. With him we bring the promise of a rich harvest. Jesus sent his apostles first of all to the lost sheep of Israel. For us also his work will begin close to home, with our family, friends and parish.