One of our most basic assumptions is that life will be good and that things will go well for us. So, when things are not going so well we tend to feel aggrieved, or even singled out by misfortune. It’s just not fair. And yet for so many of us, life is difficult, and things don’t follow the plan we’d like them to, and none of us really escape difficult times and experiences. They are indeed, a fact of life.
Last week’s Gospel reminded us that Jesus called disciples and then sent them out into the world on a mission, promising that as they witnessed to the kingdom, they would not be alone. Well today, we find Jesus warning these same disciples that being chosen for this mission task doesn’t necessarily mean that things will go well. They won’t necessarily have a charmed existence and they may well find opposition from the very people they are being sent to. The world will not always treat them kindly. They won’t get any special exemption from pain and difficulty. In fact, as Matthew wrote this Gospel for the Jewish Christians, they were facing all kinds of difficulty, persecution and even death, as they stood up for their faith.
Jesus is telling them today, and then also reminding us that although they won’t ever be spared the pain and sorrow of life, God will always be with them. Perhaps this sounds like pie in the sky. We always hope and expect that God will spare us, or take us out of pain and suffering. Yet even Jesus was not spared the pain of the journey. We can’t ensure our own survival. Although we’d like to think that we’re completely self-reliant, and manage our own life, in the end we are so often reminded that we are powerless and dependent.
In every situation, whatever they are to face, Jesus encourages his disciples to simply put their trust in God, and to accept the challenge of the mission that they share with him, including pain and suffering. They are to remember that just as God watches over a tiny sparrow, so he cares for and watches over them – and of course us. Disciples are to focus their attention on the God who knows and loves them, to ultimately trust in God’s great providence and care for the whole of life, and then to simply get on with carrying out the mission entrusted to them.
What exactly does all this mean for us here in the 21st century? Let’s remember that even when life is difficult, even when it feels unfair, even when our best efforts seem to turn to ash, even when people turn against us – God has not abandoned us, but is right there with us, and that this isn’t pie in the sky. Life’s difficulties are not unfair, but part of the life we share. So, let us be there for one another, open to listening, and open to going the extra step to care. And that after all is what mission in the world is about.
In peace, Mother Lynda