The Work is God’s
In recent years, the Holy See has discussed, on several occasions, extending the amount of time required in
seminary before a man is ordained a priest. Only twenty years ago, there were still men who received only four or five
years of formation before the new Church policy requiring at least six years. Often, local churches will add a mandatory
spiritual year to allow a candidate to break their connection with the mad pace and values of the secular world, or a pastoral year to train a candidate in the realities of parish life. Now, the Church as a whole is considering adding additional years to the six spent in formation, all to ensure that candidates are as ready as possible before they are sent to work in the Lord’s vineyard.
Yet in the Gospel today, we see Christ send His Apostles out into the world to preach in His name well before
their time. About half of the Apostles have only known Jesus for a year or so at this point, and yet they are given the task of preaching repentance. Not only this, but Christ sends them without any of the normal provisions we would consider necessary for a long journey. They are not to carry anything by which they might support themselves, but are to rely purely on what they receive from God through the kindness of others. The Lord has taken His brand-new disciples, who still do not understand His teachings or His ultimate mission very well, and sent them off entirely un-prepared to face their own natural needs, much less the many supernatural needs of the crowds.
And still, what happens on their journey? The Apostles do actually drive out demons and cure sick people. Despite the fact that they have nothing and understand little, divine power works through them, and they successfully extend the reach of the Kingdom of Heaven. They become capable of acts clearly beyond their natural capacities.
This is the key to what might seem like a recklessly assigned mission from the Lord. The Apostles, and we
through them, are to learn that the saving work Christ does is not the sort of work that relies on human strength and ability. The Lord in this case does not train His disciples in the details of casting out demons or healing the sick, because no amount of training will confer on them the miraculous power. No amount of readiness will give them the ability to command both natural and spiritual things with God’s own authority. Later on, Christ will give them further instructions. He will tell them to go about well prepared, and after He has ascended, He will send the Holy Spirit to illumine their minds and guide them into all truth. For this moment though, they must understand that the work is God’s, and so long as they remain faithful and obedient to the Lord, He will be able to enter the world in power through their trusting hearts.
This same lesson applies to us. We are to participate, as baptized Christians, in the same saving work of Jesus,
driving evil out of our own lives and seeing others free from its grasp, healing wounds and depravations both physical
and spiritual, and this work is not something that we can simply accomplish through our own power. No amount of seminary formation or training gives a man the ability to forgive sins in confession. No amount of training in charitable works, no extent of organized relief service or altruistic action can heal the wounds of the soul or break the chains of the devil. But in a heart that trusts God, a single prayer, a kind word, or simple obedience to the Church’s Sacraments, can accomplish these and much more besides. We do not have to figure everything out. The work was the Lord’s to begin with.