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Gospel of Sunday 18 June: Matthew 9:36-10:8

Matthew 9:36-10:8: “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

XI Sunday A, Matthew 9:36-10:8

36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 

37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 

38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Jesus Sends Out the Twelve

10 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 

3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 

4 Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 

6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 

7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’

8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (

Today I share with you a short meditation on the Gospel, with particular reference to the theme of mercy.

From: C. MIGLIETTA, L’INGIUSTIZIA DI DIO e altre anomalie del suo Amore…, Gribaudi, Milan

Matthew 9, The beauty of Jesus

Today’s Gospel passage begins with a beautiful description of Jesus.

He, tireless, makes himself close to all the suffering, tirelessly travelling through towns and villages.

And to all the poor, the marginalised, the excluded, the weak, the sick, he teaches the way of salvation, announces the immense joy of the Kingdom of God that is made present in him, and heals every illness and infirmity.

Faced with every infirmity or need, Jesus “is moved”, “feels compassion”.

These are very strong terms, which we find again in the Gospels to express the Lord’s feelings when faced with the leaderless and hungry crowds: “36When he saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them (esplanchnìsthe), because they were weary and exhausted like sheep that have no shepherd” (Mt 9:36); to the leper: “Moved with compassion (splanchnisthèis), he stretched out his hand” (Mk 1:41); “I feel compassion (splanchnìzomai) for this crowd, because … they have no food” (Mk 8:2); to the people who can no longer cope: “Seeing the crowds he felt compassion (esplanchnìsthe) for them because they were weary and exhausted” (Mt 9:36); to the sick: “He felt compassion (esplanchnìsthe) for them and healed their sick” (Mt 14:14); to the widow of Naim: “The Lord was moved with compassion (esplanchnìsthe) and said to her, ‘Do not weep'” (Lk 7:13)… The verb splanchnìzomai is always used, indicating visceral emotion, recalling the mother’s womb: it is the trembling of a mother for her children, it is a very intense emotion. It is the verb that indicates the Mercy of God.

The call of the Twelve

Jesus chooses a precise group, the Twelve, a number that immediately recalls the twelve Tribes of Israel. This group has three purposes:

  1. To be with Jesus (“He called them to Himself”: Mt 10:1): this is the primacy of contemplation, meditation, prayer, adoration: the purpose of our being Christians is to be with Jesus.
  2. “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils” (Mt 10:8): that is, to overcome the forces of evil, to perform concrete signs of deliverance.
  3. The mission: preach the Gospel, proclaim the Word. During the life of Jesus, the mission of the Master and the Twelve will be essentially limited to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 10:6; 15:24), because according to Matthew, who writes for the Jews, Jesus is the Messiah who brings to fulfilment the expectation of Israel; after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the mission of the Church will instead be universal (Matthew 28:19-20).

There is a list of the Twelve, which is one of several lists that appear in the New Testament (Mk 3:16; Lk 6:14; Acts 1:13): it is no longer clear which were some of these Twelve.

Among them, however, there were also some not very recommendable people: James and John are called ‘boanerghès’, ‘sons of turmoil’, so probably belonging to some revolutionary movement; there is Simon the Zealot, i.e. the subversive; let us remember that Peter also had a sword; there is Judas Iscariot, i.e. ‘the hitman’, the rebel armed with the sica, a short and curved dagger, typical of Libyan pirates. .

Jesus does not call the best: “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil” (Jn 6:70). Jesus does not call the righteous, the best: Jesus calls everyone.

“First, Simon, called Peter”

Matthew’s Gospel, even beyond the founding passage of the Church (Mt 16:13-20), shows a peculiar interest in the figure of Peter. First of all, in the list of the Twelve Apostles, Matthew is the only one who next to the name of “Simon, called Peter”, joins the ordinal pronoun “first”, “pròtos”: “first, Simon, called Peter…”. (Mt 10:2).

Some have read in this ‘pròtos’ a sort of primogeniture of Peter in relation to the apostolic body. In fact, the passage recalls the genealogy of the twelve patriarchs, the sons of Jacob. “These are the names of the twelve apostles: first Simon the one called Peter…” (Mt 10:2) refers in fact to: “These are the names of the sons of Israel: the firstborn… Reuben,…” (Gen 46:8). “Just as in Gen 46:8 it is emphasised that Reuben is Jacob’s heir, so Matthew in 10:2 makes it very clear that among those twelve the “heir” is Simon Peter… “Pròtos” is the translation of the Hebrew “rison”… The term ‘rison’ has both a chronological and a juridical meaning (first = superior, head); it derives from the root of ‘ros’… The same term ‘ros’ by analogy was used well to indicate the head of the family… In the family the first son was destined to be head, to succeed the head of the family’ (A. Salerno). The investiture as first-born son, in the Old Testament, took place when the father was close to death. Jesus conferred primacy on Peter just before he foretold his passion and death (Mt 16:21). The firstborn (in Hebrew “bekor”) also means the heir. Two considerations emerge from this reading: the apostolic body understood as family, and the idea of a succession of first-born, which must therefore continue even after Peter.

The Church, a community of “called ones

In the letter to the Romans, Christians are defined as “called by Jesus Christ…, beloved of God and holy by vocation” (Rom 1:6-7). Christians are therefore ‘kletòi’, the ‘called’ (1 Cor 1:2; Rom 1:6), the members of the ‘ekklesìa’, the community of the ‘called’ (from ‘ek-kalèo’).

Pope Francis reminds us that we all have a vocation, a call from Jesus: “I leave you with a few questions. First of all: do I remember any ‘strong moment’ in which I met Jesus? Each of us think about our own history: in my life was there any strong moment when I met Jesus? And was there something beautiful and significant that happened in my life that left other, less important things behind? And today, is there anything that Jesus asks me to give up? What material things, ways of thinking, habits do I need to leave behind in order to really say ‘yes’ to Him?”.

Good Mercy to all!

Anyone wishing to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, ask me at

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