A Reflection on the Readings for Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel immediately brought to mind the idea of an ambassador or an emissary. Here are the verses that I want to reflect upon, “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. … If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. And they will do all these things to you on account of my name…” I know, it is a charming little passage. To offer a juvenile side note, this passage is a perfect set up for Jesus to look at us when we complain and say, “I told you so.”
Anyway, back to the concept of emissary. In our age of worldwide instant communication, I think we lose sight of what it meant to be an emissary in the past. If you couldn’t speak directly to the ruler of a land, the emissary was the next best thing. Speaking to them was so close to talking to the ruler that affronts to an emissary could be regarded as an affront to the ruler himself.
Take for instance the story of Genghis Khan, who when his emissaries were killed by the Shah of the Khwarezmid Empire, launched a war of retribution. Now, Genghis Khan is far from a Christian role model, but I think his reaction informs our view.
I bring all of this up because I think Jesus is preparing his disciples, then and now, for the privilege and the burden of being his emissaries. I think this passage needs to be read accordingly. This isn’t Jesus, the itinerant rabbi and healer, speaking to his friends. Instead this is the Prince of Peace speaking to his subjects before he takes up his throne as King on the Cross. This is a regal statement, appointing his trusted emissaries.
We’ve looked at what an emissary is, but what do they do (besides get killed by people that don’t like their boss)? To answer that, I looked up the etymology and discovered that it is derived from Latin and means “someone who is sent out on a mission.” We might be more familiar with a Greek synonym, apostellein (send forth) and apostolos (messenger). Ring a bell? This should convict us every time we say the Creed. We declare our belief in the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” Yes, Apostolic means that we hold to the faith of the Apostles and can trace ourselves back to them. And yet, it simultaneously means that we believe in a Church that is sent. A Church that not only has a past, but also has a future. A Church with a Mission; an Emissary Church. A Church that, at the end of every Mass, hears the word, “Go!”
“Go” is not the friendly advice of your priest, it is the command of your King, and it is your commission and appointment as an emissary. Will you keep His word? Will you be sent to be a little Christ in the world; a Christian? Will you be an emissary disciple; or in Pope Francis’ words, a Missionary Disciple?
God, give us the grace to go forth on account of you name, and to truly be authentic emissaries of your kingdom, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
– Spencer Hargadon
Originally Posted on May 9, 2015 at Ite Missa Est