Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Callling and Sending

First Reading: Acts 12:24—13:5a
Psalm: 67:2-3, 5, 6 and 8 -- O God, let all the nations praise you!
Gospel: Jn 12:44-50
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off. - Acts 13:2-3
In today's reading, we hear the beginning of Paul's first missionary journey. There are three things that jump out with this reading: prayer, the call and the sending.

It is very important to note how this mission begins, with prayer. And not only prayer, but with fasting as well. These two actions go together and are of vital importance when one is seeking to know God's will. The question often comes up why fasting is necessary, why not just prayer? Simply, it is because in fasting from something that we draw away from the world and closer to Christ. Jesus Himself prayed and fasted in the desert before beginning His ministry. Later, He tells his disciples "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me" (Matthew 16:24).

Within prayer and fasting comes the calling. These must come first, because it is only in the stillness of prayer and the emptying of ourselves through fasting that we can hear that call. It is always there and may poke and prod at us at other times too, but we do not hear it clearly. It becomes a faint tugging at our minds and hearts during the normal hum-drum of the day.

Finally comes the sending. It is tempting to put this step first; to get a start as soon as possible. Yet it is necessary that we wait until the sending, that we may have good direction. Even once called, it is still up to us to act. Prayer has strengthened us for the journey and the calling has directed us what to do. Our mission is clear and has been approved by the authority over us. However, it still remains our choice as to whether we will begin. May the Lord grant us the courage to take that step (and all subsequent ones) on the ministry to which we are called.

Heavenly Father, we give joyful thanks for the gift of this day. Thank you for sending powerful teachers to your servants on Earth. Lord, we offer a prayer for discernment, that we might discover Your will for us. Fill us with the graces necessary to pray, fast and listen for Your Word in our heart, and the humility and courage to follow where You lead. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

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