Called out of the crowd

Reflection on the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Times

By Andrew Nowak

The readings for this Sunday:

Exodus 19:2-6a
Romans 5:6-11
Matthew 9:36-10:8

When I was a child around the age of 5, I got lost in a crowd at the county fair. I remember searching frantically for my mother and father; looking up at strange faces and full of fear that I might never be with my parents again. I was lost in this vast sea of people; people who were moving this way and that. I was caught in the crowd‘s current of chaotic movement. Since then I have always had some anxiety when in large crowds.

In today’s Gospel, we see Jesus show strong emotions at the sight of the crowd. This crowd represents the human race searching frantically for true meaning in their lives. This crowd moved chaotically from one prophet to the next, from one set of principles to the next, never finding the loving embrace of the Mother/Father God.

In this Gospel, Jesus calls out 12 of his disciples from the crowd. These 12 men are interesting characters to say the least. Peter, who is willing to walk on water one day to meet the Lord, will swear that he never knew Jesus another day. Matthew who took from his people to support the Roman occupiers is now asked to give freely to heal and teach self-sacrifice and love. Simon who has sworn to free Israel from oppression by any means and to take vengeance on “Jewish Traitors” is called to be a brother to Matthew. James and John are called to humbly follow Christ on earth but want exulted thrones in heaven. What a group. These disciples were at their worst when they followed self-interest and lost sight of the transcending love of God, a love that called them out of themselves to love others. The only thing that held this group together was their love for Jesus and the Kingdom. One can easily blame the Pharisees for not leading the crowds, but look at these disciples who made up the crowds. The difference I see between the Pharisees and the disciples is that the disciples were open to Jesus’ invitation to love.

Jesus calls these men and confers on them a new title. No longer will they be known as disciples, or hearers of the Word, they are now Apostles, ones who are sent. They are called out of the crowds to minister to the crowds: to heal their sicknesses, raise their dead, cleanse their leprosy, and drive out demons. Anyone can minister to the crowds and perform the actions of healing, but Jesus adds the following command, which becomes a stumbling block for the crowds; that being, “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” The Kingdom of God’s Love must be proclaimed to give these healing actions lasting effects. I say that this proclamation was a stumbling block because it was this same crowd who yelled to Pilate, “Give us Barabbas and Crucify Him!”

As Christians, we are called out of the crowds by the loving embrace of our Creator God and given the mission to proclaim the Kingdom of God’s Love to others.