In St. Matthew's Gospel for yesterday, we hear Jesus give his Apostles their marching orders: cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons. Pretty fantastic and miraculous actions, by today's standards. Sure, we have doctors and other medical professionals that can cure the sick and tend to lepers, but raising the dead? Driving out demons? Does that apply to us today?
Sure it does, if we see beyond the simple words on the page and listen to what Jesus is telling every one of us. Who are the sick we are called to cure? Those sick of heart - through the loss of a loved one, a job gone bad, a broken relationship. Our loving presence often can be the source of spiritual healing they need. Can we raise the dead? Those who have turned their back on God, who do not believe in Jesus, who trust in nothing but themselves - in a sense they've died to God. Our loving presence may lead them to return to God and to everlasting life. Who are the lepers of today? Lepers at the time of Jesus were the outcasts of society, rejected and often abandoned. Today's lepers are those who are the refugees, the poor and homeless, the abandoned and the rejected. Our loving presence and acceptance of them cleanses them of the shame and sense of abandonment they feel. What about demons? We have all encountered the demons of our society present in the addictions and compulsions that we and others have faced. Almost all 12-step programs for fighting addictions recognizes the need for a companion to hold one accountable and to rely upon for spiritual and moral support when faced with their demons.
So the marching orders given to the Apostles are the same ones we receive today. Jesus sent the Apostles out without any materialistic support - no money, no extra clothes, no safety net. We too must face our challenges with God's help, leaving behind our worldly goods. It is only in this that we can become true disciples of Jesus.