"QUALITY LIVING" is the watchword of today's society. It is the universal aspiration achieved by the very few. The mundane reality of modem living is stressful. Lives are fragmented by competing demands. Relentless pressure destroys any sense of dignity or purpose in life. A defeated resignation can become the only means of survival. Here there is no "quality" of life.
A similar situation called forth the compassion of Jesus. "When Jesus saw the crowds, he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and ▪ dejected, like sheep without a shepherd." His immediate response was to proclaim the richness of life waiting to be revealed in every individual. "The harvest is rich, but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest." The imagery of the harvest becomes powerful when it is taken as a personal description of what we are. The way in which we see ourselves and our world will often be negative. Christ saw things quite differently. The rich harvest that Christ sees within each one of us gives dignity to our lives.
The twelve disciples were summoned and sent forth to harvest the forgotten potential of harassed and dejected lives. They were given the power to heal and cure, the authority to break the grip of evil. We struggle with any authority other than our own, and then meekly surrender to the authority of stress, pride, materialism and any other devil we might care to name. The authority instinctively recognised in Jesus was the divine love for a broken world. This was to be the only authority entrusted to the 12 on their first missionary journey. The message that they carried was very simple. "The Kingdom of God is close at hand." This kingdom was nothing other than the presence of God reaching out to the world, caring for the world, healing the world. The disciples preaches such a kingdom not by words, but by the example of his life.
It is worthy of comment that the first journey of the twelve was to be the immediate household of faith, to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. Many within the household of the Church feel harassed and rejected. It is to these that the compassion of Christ is first turned. In the mind of Christ this was the first and essential step to a wider mission. If we are to follow in the footsteps of the disciples and cany Christ to the ends of the earth, we will look afresh at the person next to us.
The reading from the Book of Exodus looks upon this same ministry entrusted to the Church from a slightly different perspective. The children of Israel were called to be a consecrated nation, a light to the nations. Initially this work would not rest on their own achievements, but in the joyful recognition of what God had worked among them.
"You yourselves have seen what I did, how I carried you on eagle's wings and brought you to myself."
When we look back, sometimes over a troubled and painful past, we can recognise how lovingly God was leading us to himself.