Gathered, Refreshed, Scattered…
The human heart beats about 70 times a minute, but long distance runners and cyclists can have resting heart beats in the 40s. Expanding and contracting, endlessly pumping… in and out. Humans breathe about 15 to 20 times a minute… in and out. The heart and the lungs work together to oxygenate the body. Oxygen keeps our cells (and our whole bodies) alive. In these perpetual processes, there is rhythm and an exchange. We can think of each as a gathering and a dispersal, a drawing together and a sending forth. The heart swells with old blood, sends it along to the lungs for oxygen, and then all through the body. I'm no doctor, but that's the general idea. ;-)
Today in the Gospel (Mk 6:7-13) Jesus summons the Twelve and sends them out. He gathers them and then scatters them, two-bytwo. This is not the first time Jesus has gathered them. Earlier in Mark, Jesus “went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach,” (Mk 3:13-14). So, Jesus draws followers to himself. He picks and names the twelve “whom he wanted.” He chooses them, and they stay with him. In John's Gospel, some ask Jesus “where are you staying?” And He invites, “Come and see.” Later on, Jesus reminds them, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you!”
What occurs with oxygen on the natural plane of the human body, occurs with grace on the supernatural plane of the human soul. These twelve soak up the grace of his divine presence. They learn from him. They are “oxygenated” by his presence, by his message, by his teaching with authority. This new spiritual life in which they share, begins and is strengthened by his initiative.
A similar dynamic occurs at each and every Holy Eucharist. We gather from all around, from many different paths and places. We might be tired and low from a long week, “old blood,” as it were. At God's invitation, we come together around the altar of God. We are summoned to be with him, to draw close to him, to receive the grace of his presence. And together, Head and members offer the one fitting sacrifice of praise. In the process we are filled with divine life. We are filled with the presence of Christ Jesus himself. And deacon dismisses us, “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord!” Or, “Go forth, the Mass is ended!” Or, “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord with your life!” With the final blessing, we are commissioned to spread the Gospel, to give testimony, to be the presence of Jesus in the world.