A short reflection on the Gospel of Matthew given to the WCSS group.
“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 a difficult mission Jesus gave to the disciples! As I read the passage, I wondered how those healings might look – I learn best by seeing, even if what I see is in my imagination. Would the disciples touch the lepers as Jesus did, would they make mud to heal the blind as Jesus did, what words would they use to cast out demons? This wouldn’t be like an episode of “Bewitched” – you remember that program where the woman would twitch her nose and “poof”, it was done. So how exactly? I pondered this for quite some time and came to a sort of answer to this question through what I have experienced.
Until I was 14 years old my family lived close to my grandparents in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My grandfather died when I was 9 years old; my grandma lived quite a few more years after that. My dad’s youngest sister, Rose, had been living with her parents before grandpa’s death and continued to live with grandma until grandma’s death in 1982.
For quite a few years my 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, 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 they used unsavory language or their family situation was unlike her own. She acted on that belief, befriending people I sometimes thought were unacceptable or just different, and in so doing she shared God’s message of love 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 “ I am busy, 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 -Was she dispelling 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 life, Aunt Rose gave us a message of hope and of 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 have wondered if we carry with us to eternity evidence of 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.
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. 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. God placed us right here in Georgetown, Texas. So how do we go about the mission entrusted to us?
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 visit those in prison and pray for them. 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.”
There will never be a photo in the Williamson County Sun of 100+ women from St. Helen’s Women’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 and bless the world – but maybe there should be. 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.