In the four short verses of today’s Gospel, Jesus lays out both the challenge and the mandate for missionary discipleship. The infuriating wall of apathy notwithstanding, Jesus instructs the disciples to spread the Good News as they had been commissioned to do.
More than two thousand years later, Pope Francis spoke of his immense frustration with what he termed “global indifference.” He pointed out how we, the followers of Christ, too often stand by as spectators in the face of immense suffering, how we remain silent in order to protect our way of life. The causes of indifference are many: the overwhelming magnitude of seemingly endless global calamities; leaders who misuse their power; a paralyzing sense of personal powerlessness; and preoccupation with the earthly “good life” that eclipses eternal life. To cope, we turn our gaze, distract ourselves, and sigh.
Asked to choose between life or death, we simply abstain. The mandate of discipleship, two thousand years ago and now, is to point to God as the source of all life. Only when we choose God can we choose life. Only with God and in God can we step up to love and to heal, to fight for just relationships and foster peace. We proclaim the Good News by repeating this promise and engaging others in this spirit. Like Jesus, disciples move forward not in spite of indifference but because of it. For indifference holds dying embers that when relit, wake us from our torpor while illuminating the face of God.