In Matthew 9:35B-10:1,5A,6-8, ministry to others is announced. We are to serve one another and without cost.
Jesus went around to all the towns and villages,
teaching in their synagogues,
proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom,
and curing every disease and illness.
At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them
because they were troubled and abandoned,
like sheep without a shepherd.
Then he said to his disciples,
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.”
Then he summoned his Twelve disciples
and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out
and to cure every disease and every illness.
Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus,
“Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
Cure the sick, raise the dead,
cleanse lepers, drive out demons.
Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.”
It is Advent, and this is Saturday’s reading. In Advent, we prepare the way for the Lord, in particular, we prepare to receive the birth of Christ. But we also have these readings during the week that remind us of what Jesus comes to do and to teach during his ministry.
Here, Jesus recognizes the many who need God’s love, mercy, and compassion and are not being ministered to by God’s faith community. “The harvest (the needy) are many but the laborers (the faith community) are few,” He tells His disciples. Then He says, ask God to send to the needy those who will tend to their needs. Jesus then summonses the Twelve and gives them the authority – the power – to do God’s work, and sends them forth.
Then Jesus gives them a specific order. “Without cost you have received.” Have received what? The authority, the power, to act in God’s name? “Without cost you are to give,” He finishes. They are to do God’s work without asking for payment? So they are to act for the poor and disadvantaged equally as much as for the wealthy and privileged? It would seem so.
Here it is that Jesus creates the priesthood. But more than that, here it is that God creates ministry and charity. This is something that preachers and ministers and priests are empowered, but also the other vocations, such as brothers and sisters, and the lay ministries. And even more deeply, Jesus instills in all of us the role of evangelers, the healers, the comforters, the feeders, the providers, and the givers of hope. And in Jesus’ own words, as we have received from God without cost, so are we to give.
This isn’t to say that we cannot receive gifts from the thankful. But there is a line which can be crossed when the pursuit of the gifts becomes as important and as determined as pursuing the opportunity to serve. Serve out of love. Love of God and love of neighbor.