In our gospel for Pentecost Sunday, Jesus’ first words are “Peace be with you.” His second words are “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21) That should give each one of us pause, for we too by virtue of our Baptism are sent into the world…just as the Father sent Jesus.
The Fourth Gospel speaks often of Jesus being sent into the world by the Father: to do his will (6:38–39; 8:29), to speak his words (3:34; 8:28; 12:49; 14:24; 17:8), to perform his works (4:34; 5:36; 9:4) and win salvation for all who believe (3:16–17).
It should have come as no surprise that the disciples were sent to continue the words and works of Jesus. It is foreshadowed at various places in the Gospel:
- Jesus urged them to lift up their eyes and see fields ripe for harvest, and told them he had sent them to reap where others had labored (4:35–38),
- he said those who believed in him would do the works he had done and greater works than these because he was returning to the Father (14:12);
- he told them, “I … chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you” (15:16), saying that when the Paraclete comes “he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning” (15:26–27), and
- when he prayed for his disciples he said to the Father, “As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world” (17:18).
This last text, which parallels 20:21, confirms that the sending of the disciples was ‘into the world’, i.e. with a mission to the world. The other texts reveal the essential content of their mission was to ‘harvest’ men and women for the kingdom by their witness to Jesus by word and deed, alongside the ongoing witness of the Spirit.
We too are sent in to the world to carry the Words and the Works of Jesus to our household, to our neighbors, to the end of the block – and beyond. And in these small ways, the mission is carried out to the end of the world.