The Call to Ministry

This coming Sunday the Church celebrates The Solemnity of Corpus Christi. In yesterday’s post we set the stage for a transition from the very public ministry of Jesus establishing his identity and mission to Israel – to one in which the disciples will more deeply explore Jesus’ identity in order to discover their part in his divine mission. We pick up the account as the apostles return from their first mission.

10 When the apostles returned, they explained to him what they had done. He took them and withdrew in private to a town called Bethsaida. 11 The crowds, meanwhile, learned of this and followed him. He received them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and he healed those who needed to be cured.

As part of the instruction for his disciples, it seems likely that Jesus wants to affirm their experience of mission and healing, as well as extend and continue the instructions as a means to prepare them for the soon-coming work of the nascent church. And the passage makes clear it was meant to form a respite and break from the missionary endeavors and make space in their life for quiet communal time with Jesus. Having participated successfully as his fellow workers in ministry, do they understand fully who Jesus is? Has their faith matured? We will see.

As for a private moment (v.10), alas, it was not to be. At one level the crowds relentless pursual is intrusive, but nonetheless, hospitality is extended, and Jesus engages in a ministry of healing and of proclamation about the kingdom. This summary of his ministry is indistinguishable from the ministry in which the twelve had participated (vv.1–2, 6)—a reality that serves at least initially to blur even further any possible lines of distinction between their activity on God’s behalf and his own.

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