A long time ago, in Bangalore, India, there lived two brothers. The elder one was seven years old, and the younger was four years old. Every day, James dropped both the brothers at school and picked them up again from school, bringing them home in his car. But one day, James got struck in a traffic jam, and couldn’t reach school on time to pick up both the brothers. Having waited for 15 minutes, when James did not turn up, the elder brother went to his younger brother’s class, picked him up and they both started to walk home on their own. By the time James reached the school, he did not find both the brothers in their classrooms. He panicked and raised the alarm by calling on his parents and telling the teachers at the school that the boys were missing. Everyone began to search for both the brothers. The teachers started to search on the school premises, while James, and the parents started searching for the boys on the streets and the roads. The mother of these children was weeping and asking everyone she met on the surrounding roads if they had seen two boys walking in their school uniforms. The roads were busy clogged with traffic jams. After searching for an hour, both the brothers were found. Their dad, searching for them on his scooter, spotted them on the street near to their home. Immediately on finding them safe, dad called his wife, then called James and the rest of the team who were searching, informing them that the boys were found. On hearing that news everyone sighed with relief, and returned back home. As soon as the dad found his two sons on the busy road, he got off his scooter, hugged the boys and thanked God for seeing his sons safe and sound. Dad asked his children, “Are both ok my dear sons? Where have you been? Everyone was searching for you.” The eldest son replied back, “Dad, I was bringing thammudu (little brother) home safely.” The dad had no more words, and with tears rolled down his face, took both his sons into his arms. This is the story that happened in our family, and whenever I remember this incident, I think of those moments of panic, helplessness at one end, and on the other the utmost happiness in finding them back, and helps me to recognise the delight in finding back that which seemed to be lost.
In the gospel reading for this week from Mark 1:29-39, after Jesus healed the mother-in-law of Peter who was down with fever, and many other people who were sick, the next day early in the morning Jesus went on his own to a deserted place to pray. Peter’s mother-in-law on finding Jesus at his home visit to Peter, received healing from her fever. Then that evening all those people living with vulnerabilities, on finding Jesus received healing in their lives. Later when Jesus went on to a lonely place for prayer early in the morning, Simon and his companions hunted for Jesus when he was not found (37v). Finally, when they found Jesus, they said to him, “Everyone was searching for you.” The reply that Jesus gives back to Simon and his companions is the key verse for our reflection for this week. Jesus answered, “Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do” (38v).
When Simon and his companions on finding Jesus said that everyone was searching for you, Jesus should have immediately responded saying, here I am and I am coming back to you. Instead, Jesus responds to them by demonstrating the motivation of his mission, and then by explaining the movement of his mission, and the method of his mission. Allow me to share these three pointers that the disciples found, in finding Jesus after their hunt from Jesus’ response.
1. Finding Jesus’ motivation to mission:
After his home visits and healing people, Jesus, while it was still dark went to a deserted place and was spending time in prayer (35v). It was here that Simon and his companions thought they have lost Jesus, not knowing that Jesus was spending time listening to God in prayer. After a long hunt, when they have found Jesus, they have found him in prayer. In finding Jesus, they found a praying Jesus. The gospel writer Mark did not record what was the kind of prayer that Jesus was doing at that time, nor recorded any words that he expressed in his prayers. Part of me thinks, in prayer he was listening to the voice of God, seeking direction, message and meaning for his mission. And I think, prayer was the motivation that drives Jesus to mission and heal the communities. Prayer for Jesus was not a privatised activity, rather it was a personal activity, which allows him to listen to the voice of God, to wait on God and to be led by God in his mission endeavours. So, in finding Jesus, the disciples found prayer, which served as a motivation for Jesus in his mission.
2. Finding Jesus’ movement of mission:
When the disciples found Jesus in prayer, they said to him that everyone was searching for him, for which Jesus responded about his mission, explaining the reason for his coming into this world. It is here that Jesus invites his disciples to go with him to the neighbouring towns for mission. Jesus movement for mission is not a static one, but is a dynamic one, for at the heart of mission is movement, moving to neighbouring towns and spreading the love of God. In this expression of ‘let us go to the neighbouring towns’ (38v), Jesus was allowing his disciples to find that the mission he is on, is about moving outwards, moving towards others. This ‘other-centredness’ is the core in the movement of Jesus’ mission, which the disciples found on finding him. The movement of mission is about reaching out, going out, is about moving from our own cosy settled positions to unsettled towns and villages, and into situations of uncertainty. Jesus could have very well wanted to be lost in that prayer time, but he explains that mission is about movement, about moving into uncertainty knowing that it is God who leads and guides.
3. Finding Jesus’ methods of doing mission:
After explaining about the movement of mission, on finding Jesus the disciples now found the methods of the mission that Jesus was engaging with. They were a twofold method: in verse 39, we read that “And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.” Proclamation and practice were the two methods of Jesus’ mission, that the disciples found on finding Jesus. Proclamation and practice went hand in hand for Jesus in his mission engagements. In as much as he proclaimed the love of God for people, he saw to it that he healed people and casted the demons. Jesus’ proclamation involved critical reading of his texts and relating them to his context, and practice included healing not just the diseases but also the dis-eases, crossing boundaries, breaking down the walls of exclusion and building bridges. Jesus’ proclamation always followed a healing or casting off the demon or a miracle and that method of doing mission was found by the disciples throughout their ministry with Jesus.
To summarise the above three points, on finding Jesus, Simon and his companions found that it is from prayer that Jesus finds his motivation for mission, it is in going to the neighbouring towns and villages offering healing is the kind of movement that Jesus was mentioning and it is in proclamation and in practice of the good news, are his methods of doing mission. In a nutshell what we gather from this text is that, in finding Jesus, the disciples found that for Jesus, prayer, people, proclamation and practice are the core principles of being involved in the mission of God.
Having attended at least three mission meetings in the last few days, I have been thinking of the relevance of mission of God in our context today. From this text we have found that for Jesus, it is prayer, people, proclamation and practice that forms the core principles of being involved in the mission of God. Now we are called to reimagine these principles for our times and context today.
Firstly, the call is to find the meaning of prayer today. Prayer for me is more about listening to God than giving a shopping list of things that God has to attend. On another count, prayer is about God finding us, finding you and me to be an answer to someone’s prayer in need and despair. For example is it easy to say a prayer before we eat our meal, saying we think of those who are hungry and God please feed them. Maybe we should change such prayers, and ask God to make us as people willing to share our food with the hungry, and asking God to help us be channels in overcoming hunger in our contexts. All I am trying to say is prayer is about practice, and so is mission and therefore we are called to join with Jesus in turning our prayers into actions.
Secondly, mission is about going to the neighbouring towns, meeting people and helping them in their longing to belong. Mission is about creating that sense of belonging, inclusion with equality and by celebrating diversity. Mission is about celebrating God’s presence in and with people of all faiths and none, for the location of mission is God’s creation. We remember people who are crossing oceans and seas as refugees, some seeking asylum, some coming as migrants who do not look like us or believe like us, and the calling for mission is to create a sense of belonging by integrating them into our context. So, mission is about people and presence.
Thirdly, mission is about proclamation, sharing God’s love, in ways and means appropriate to our time and context. Proclamation today is not just standing at the pulpit or at the corner of the street and shout that Jesus is the Lord. Proclamation is about sharing God’s love in action, through our life-styles, through conversations, through mutual respect, through healthy dialogues, through care, by sharing and through critical reflections. Proclamation is about addressing the needs of our society that keeps disturbing the fabric and harmony of our society and sharing the love of God as relevant in such situations. Proclamation today requires preparation, experience of God’s love in our lives and requires humility in accepting the other as equal partners in the economy of God’s love. Proclamation today is not shouting God is love, rather demonstrating how God is love for us today. Mission is about such a kind of proclamation.
Fourthly, mission is about practice, practically exhibiting the love of Christ in action, in practice and in practical terms. Mission today is about bringing in a change in the life situations of people and creation. Mission is about transformation, is about being a change and channel towards making the kingdom of God a reality. Mission is about working with Jesus, with God’s grace towards justice, peace, inclusion, integration, belonging and equality.
In conclusion, when my two sons were lost and found, I found the love of the elder brother to his younger one, I found care and courage of the elder brother in bringing home safely his younger brother. Perhaps from this text, the disciples on finding Jesus, found the core principles of his mission, which are prayer, people, proclamation and practice, and they are of huge significance for us today. Let us continue to join with Jesus in transforming our world into a better place to live and let others live. Amen.
Raj Bharat Patta,
5th February 2021