Mission of the Disciples

Reflection for Chapter 11 of Matthew

Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and sickness….These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions….As you go, proclaim the good news: “The Kingdom of heaven has come near.”  Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment…” Matthew Chapter One

What an awesome mission Jesus gave to the disciples! By watching Jesus heal and hearing his words, the disciples were instructed to follow His example. But what does that have to do with me?

We learned in our lesson this week that we are all disciples by virtue of our baptism, so we all have the same mission as the first disciples. But we don’t have to walk the dusty roads of Palestine or venture farther into the Gentile lands of the Roman Empire to fulfill our missions. God placed us right here in Georgetown, Texas. So how do we go about the mission entrusted to us? I reflected on this question this week, and it led me to remember:

Until I was 14 years old my family lived close to my grandparents in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My grandfather died in 1954 when I was 9 years old; my grandma lived quite a few more years. My dad’s youngest sister, Rose, had been living with her parents and continued to live with my grandma until grandma’s death in 1982.

Aunt Rose received a semi-monthly magazine from the Maryknoll Missionaries in the mail. The magazine contained lots of stories and photographs of the missionaries’ work. I looked forward to reading the magazine when we visited grandma and Aunt Rose’s home, and in my heart of hearts thought that someday I would like to be a Maryknoll Sister and work as a missionary in some far away place. That desire continued until my teen years, after my immediate family had moved away from Pittsburgh. Though I don’t remember why I changed my mind about being a Maryknoll missionary – maybe the poisonous snakes in the jungle or the Texas sized insects? – my life took a completely different path.

Aunt Rose was the only one of dad’s siblings who never married. In many simple and quiet ways Aunt Rose fulfilled her mission as a disciple of Christ. First and foremost, of course, Aunt Rose took care of her mother, though Rose worked at a job outside their home. In addition, Aunt Rose always saw the people she met as redeemable, even if their use of language or their family situation was unlike her own. She acted on that belief, befriending people I sometimes thought were strange or unacceptable, and in so doing she shared God’s message of love and acceptance with them.

Aunt Rose was always willing to listen to and counsel her 16 nieces and nephews, sharing her joy and her wisdom with all of us, usually over a hot, steaming cup of Ovaltine. I never heard Aunt Rose say, “I don’t have time now” or “See me tomorrow”. Aunt Rose would stop whatever she was doing to be a friend and confidant to us.

Through the years, when Aunt Rose was driving her lemon yellow Chevy with a pink plastic rose smartly taped to the radio antenna, and someone “flipped her the finger”, Aunt Rose would rapidly roll down the window, wave and call out loudly,  “God bless you!” to the offender – Did she dispel demons with her simple prayer?

In 2006 when Aunt Rose was 85 years old, she was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Aunt Rose told all of us that she would fight for her life for as long as the treatment worked, for she loved her life, but when the treatment didn’t work anymore, Aunt Rose said that she wasn’t worried, for she knew where she was going. At the end of her long and beautiful life, Aunt Rose gave us a message of hope and faith – and throughout that painful time continued to be a “missionary” for the Lord. Aunt Rose passed into the arms of Jesus on October 29th, 2006.

I had the awesome privilege of speaking to Aunt Rose over the phone a few minutes before her death and was able to tell her again that I loved her. I heard her softly whisper that she loved me too. I have often wondered if we carry with us to eternity the love we have given away and the love we have received. If we do, Rose Margaret Henry, my dear Aunt Rose, had a lot to carry with her and now shines brightly in God’s heaven.

While remembering my aunt’s life this week, I realized that I don’t have to go far away or join a religious order to be a missionary. Neither do you. You and I teach and counsel the young to set them on the right path – much as my Aunt Rose did. We visit the sick and pray for their healing and comfort. We give food, money and goods to those in need. We provide a ride to a doctor’s appointment or Mass or Scripture study for friends and acquaintances, who have no other means of transportation. We seek out and listen to someone who is overwhelmed by her problems. We carry Communion to those who are ill and unable to attend Mass. We smile and say “God bless you” to someone at the grocery store or help some older folks carry groceries to their car. We remember those who have died in our prayers. In so many small ways, you and I, just like my beloved Aunt Rose, perform the mission which Jesus left to us.

Our small gifts of love heal one another, dispel those demons which seek to harm us, and announce that “the Kingdom of God has truly come near.”

Sadly, there will never be a photo in the Williamson County Sun of 100+ women from St. Helen’s Scripture study marching down University Avenue in their orthopedic shoes, some with canes or walkers or seated in wheel chairs, on the way to convert the world – but maybe there should be, for that is what we are doing. We don’t have to face the poisonous insects and snakes in the jungle to be a disciple for Christ. Our Blessed Lord has called more adventuresome and younger folks to that mission. Each time we reach out in love to someone, no matter how small or insignificant the act may seem, we are fulfilling the mission that Jesus left for you and for me.