Thursday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
[Jesus] summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two.
The meaning of Jesus’ two-fold action of summoning and sending in today’s Gospel passage is based on the literal meaning of the word “apostle”, which is “one who is sent”. But today’s summoning and sending, in chapter 6 of St. Mark’s Gospel account, is different from a second apostolic mission on which these men will be sent. That latter mission occurs in the final chapter, where in fact only eleven apostles remain.
The key distinction is what the Twelve here are sent to do. This is a preparatory mission: to preach repentance, drive out demons, and anoint and cure the sick. Here the Twelve turn people around from the negative, to prepare them to receive the positive. Their mission here is something akin to the vocation of St. John the Baptist: to prepare for something—Someone—greater.
In Mark’s final chapter, the apostles are sent to accomplish something radically different. They are sent not just to the sick, but to “the whole world”. They are sent not just within the Holy Land, but “to the whole world”. They are sent not to preach repentance, but to “proclaim the Gospel” [16:15]. For each of us, in the on-going conversion of our lives to Christ, we need to listen and be receptive to the works of both of these missions: turning away from our sins, so that we within our own vocations can proclaim the Gospel by living the Gospel.