By Fr. Errol Fernandes SJ –
Isaiah 30:19-21, 23-26; Mt 9:35-10: 1, 6-8
The text of today begins with what is known as a Summary statement. It states succinctly the ministry of Jesus which is both word and action. It forms an inclusion with a similar summary in 4:23 and thus brackets what comes between, namely the Sermon on the Mount (Chapters 5-7) and the Miracle Cycle (Chapters 8-9).
Through this Summary, Jesus is portrayed as Messiah in words and deeds. This Summary statement and Jesus’ observation of the crowd, who appear to him as harassed and helpless sheep without a shepherd, serves also as an Introduction to the Mission Discourse in Matthew (10:1-42) which is the second discourse in the Gospel of Matthew.
By placing this introduction at the beginning of the Mission Discourse, Matthew succeeds in conveying that the Mission of the Disciples is at one with, is continuous with, the Mission of Jesus. Like Jesus, they, too, are called to say and do. They, too, are called to word and action. They, too, are called, like Jesus, to make the Kingdom that they proclaim a tangible reality.
The disciples’ mission is not voluntary activity initiated by them; rather, they are chosen, authorized, and sent by God through Christ. It is his authority with which they are sent. They are to speak and act in Jesus’ name.
The content of their missionary proclamation is that the kingdom of heaven has indeed come. This is a kingdom that is not theoretical but extremely practical and down-to-earth. This is why the verbal proclamation has to be accompanied by action. The actions they perform are actions of healing, of making whole. Since the kingdom of heaven is given by God freely and gratuitously, their proclamation and actions must also be done freely and without charge. God’s kingdom cannot be purchased and need not be purchased, since it is God’s free gift.
The mission that Jesus inaugurated continues even today. It is, even now, a mission that must consist of both word and action. The word that is spoken must be a word that enhances and builds up. The action that is performed must be an action that heals and makes whole.