Jesus calls us to embrace the world

in the beginning
Father Mike Stubbs is the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park and has a degree in Scripture from Harvard University.

by Father Mike Stubbs

“Everyone is looking for you.”

When I was a child, we used to play hide and go seek. We could come up with some pretty amazing places to conceal ourselves.

At the same time, we set limits on how far out we could go. For example, we might require that any hiding spots had to be within our own yard. We did not want to wander too far from home.

In Sunday’s Gospel, Mk 1:29-39, Simon and a few other disciples find Jesus. He has been praying in a deserted place to escape the crowd. People are looking for Jesus because he had healed many who were sick the day before.

But Jesus tells the disciples: “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also.” Jesus wants to expand the range of his operations.

Consequently, the Gospel relates: “So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.”

Eventually, he will also go to Jerusalem, where he will be crucified. But his work will not end there. His disciples will continue his mission, taking it to the ends of the earth.

During his ministry, it would sometimes appear as though Jesus wished to confine it more nearly, to only the people of Israel.

For example, when Jesus sends out disciples, he instructs them “to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick — no food, no sack, no money in their belts” (Mk 6:8). This lack of provisions would necessarily keep the disciples close to home.

Similarly, when Jesus encounters the Syrophoenician woman, he brushes off her request for help by telling her: “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs” (Mk 7:27b).

In his reply, the children correspond to the people of Israel. The dogs correspond to the Syrophoenicians.

Despite these moments in which Jesus appears to restrict his ministry to his own people, to familiar territory, he eventually moves far beyond his original bounds. His ministry is for the whole world.

This outward movement perhaps reaches its high point at the moment of his death. The Roman centurion guarding him proclaims: “Truly this man was the Son of God” (Mk 15:39). The one who recognizes Jesus’ true nature is a Gentile.

Sometimes, we can become cliquish in our groups. We do not want to accept the outsider. That holds true for parishes and parish groups.

To that point, the word “parochial” means both “pertaining to a parish” and also “of very limited or narrow scope or outlook.”

That’s straight from the dictionary. In contrast, the example of Jesus encourages us to go beyond our boundaries, to expand our range, to embrace the world.

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