The Gospel reading today tells of Jesus’ calling of his twelve apostles. He appoints these ordinary people to do extraordinary things in His name. As Christians He calls us to do the same. It may seem daunting to be called to do extraordinary things, though if we break it down we realize that the extraordinary often happens in the simple everyday moments and it is all centered in a heart that desires to know and be with God.
Mark’s Gospel emphasizes three aspects of what it means to be Jesus’ Apostle – the Gospel writer says He appoints them “that they might be with Him,” be “sent forth to preach,” and “have authority to drive out demons” (Mk 3:14-15).
Reading this passage this week, it jumped out at me that the first description of Christian apostleship is to simply be with Him. A relationship with Jesus Christ is the center of it all. A friendship with Him. Talking to Him about the things on our heart and asking Him to speak in turn to us. Listening to His voice. Receiving His love. This is what it means to be with Him. The second call on the apostles is being sent forth to preach. This may sound more daunting to some of us at first and we may think, well this was for the first apostles and certain Christians now… but not necessarily me, right? But the truth is this call is on us and all followers of Christ, even if it looks different for different people. To preach is to witness and teach, and you probably do this much more than you realize in everyday interactions. Mentioning to a co-worker that you went to Mass on Sunday, listening intently to a friend who needed someone, or waving and saying hello to a passing stranger even from behind your mask… all of these gestures done in Christ’s love can be a simple moment of preaching. God will likely call each of us deeper into witnessing and teaching as relationship with Him deepens. We may be asked outright about our faith, and even if we look back and see how we could have answered differently, our earnest attempts to share our experience of Christ’s love are valuable moments of preaching and witnessing. God wants to give us wisdom to witness lovingly, humbly, and confidently to our faith. The more we deepen our relationship with Him in prayer, Scripture, community and fellowship, the sacraments, the more confidence we will gain in witnessing to the love of God we have encountered. His love will embolden us.
The third aspect of Christian apostleship is the “authority to drive out demons” in Christ’s name. Okay, talk about daunting again! In the literal sense of Scripture, Christians are indeed called to drive out demons and bring the incredible gift of freedom and healing to those enslaved. When Christ and His apostles drive out demons they are freeing a soul from evil, bringing a soul from darkness to light. While there is a definite time and place for those who are called to specifically drive out demons, we are all called to act in the authority of Christ’s name and encourage people out of the darkness of evil and sin into the light of faith. The third call of apostleship is a call to faith in action. If we are faithful to the first two calls of apostleship (and when we aren’t faithful, we confess our unfaithfulness, receive God’s grace that is new with each day, and get ourselves turned back to Him!)… anyway, as we sink into the first two calls of being with Him and being a living witness of our faith, the third call to act in faith will flow from the first two. Great miraculous healing can happen in many ways. Hearts can be opened and lives can be changed by an encounter with God’s love in a moment. And we can be instruments of these miracles without even knowing. Serving in any form is an act of faith, and of course we have a special call to serve the poor and those in need. Being a living witness of Christ’s love, bringing His light to others opens hearts and changes lives. If we are rooted in prayer, He will show us what this looks like for each of our lives.
Today in our Catholic Church calendar is a Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. Today, I want us to reflect on this call of apostleship and ask the Lord how we can be an apostle for Life. Being a witness to the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is an integral call of our time and it is a mission that can again seem daunting. But I want us to remember the call of apostleship that Mark gives us today and apply these same steps to our Mission for Life. First step – prayer, by which we can understand God’s heart for every unborn child, every pregnant mother, every expecting father. I am writing this with my second child in my womb, 23 weeks pregnant. His or her squirms and kicks remind me of the whole human life going on independently of my will right within my body – it’s a miracle! I can also understand the very real and urgent fear of a mother who doesn’t have the support she deserves. Motherhood is a sacrifice. A physical, emotional, financial, and personal sacrifice – but a pouring out of yourself that brings the deepest joy and fulfillment. We must strive to understand God’s heart on this because we will not get far in speaking to others about it otherwise. We can never speak on this without putting ourselves in the shoes of a pregnant mother who thinks she doesn’t have another choice. We must strive to understand and listen. And when we are called to the second step of apostleship in this, being sent forth to preach, we must speak the truth with the Lord’s compassion. Our third apostleship call is to drive out demons in Christ’s name. There are faithful priests doing incredible work to bring light to the darkness and demons of abortion. How are we called to bring light to this place of great darkness? This is what I hope we can each pray about today. How am I called to act in Christ’s name for the mission of protecting unborn life? We can pray, we can financially support organizations for women in crisis pregnancies, we can educate ourselves on the facts of pregnancy and the history of the legalization of abortion, and we can volunteer at local life centers, educating ourselves by getting to know women who are actually living the experience of a crisis pregnancy. (At the end of this post I included a list of ways that people can support life that I found inspiring and helpful this week.)
I have been tempted many times to feel hopeless in our current culture for unborn life. It can be tempting to think we can’t do anything to help. But those are lies that distract us from the fact that we are not powerless, God does change hearts, and there are many ways we can act in faith and in love for the women, men, and unborn children at risk of the devastating harm of abortion. This is not an easy call, but it does not need to be as daunting as we think. With God all things are possible (Mt 19:26).
God has called you, my dear sister or brother. He has called me. And he has appointed us to be His apostles now. At this exact moment in history and in the place he has us. How is He calling each of us to be an apostle of life?
Lord, show us the way.
Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.
Some practical ways to support unborn life: