15th Sunday in Ordinary time, Year B

Mark 6: 7 – 13

Lord, often when we read the Bible we move quickly from one line to another, from one thought to the next.  But you send your words as Jesus sent the Twelve, to enter deeply into our inner dwelling and to remain there, nourishing and reconciling everything in us. Amen. 1

The thoughts expressed in this prayer apply particularly to today’s reading. It is important that we read this text looking for the figurative meaning. If Mk 6: 7-13 is read literally, as it stands, it will just be nonsense.  magine reminding grown men who are going to be walking many kilometres across country to put on sandals!  This just does not make sense.

To help us understand today’s reading we note that three stories come before it:

The healing of the demoniac;   (5: 1-20)

Healing of the woman with a haemorrhage;   (5: 25-34)

The raising of the daughter of Jairus.   (5: 21-24; 35-43)

Mark uses these stories to give us Jesus’ teaching on all forms of oppression. Jesus mission was to remove oppressive behaviour – in religion, in society, freeing people from guilt, ignorance, poverty, (The demons / unclean spirits of society). This will also be the mission of all his disciples.

Time now to read the text several times. I have emphasised some of the key ideas.

Mark 6: 7 – 13

7Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in pairs giving them authority over the unclean spirits. 

8And he instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no haversack, no money for their purses.  9They were to wear sandals but, he added, “Do not take a spare tunic”.

10and he said to them, “If you enter a house anywhere, stay there until you leave the district.

11And if any place does not welcome you and people refuse to listen to you, as you walk away shake off the dust from under your feet as a sign to them.” 

12So they set off to preach repentance; 13and they cast out many demons, and anointed many sick people with oil and cured them.

* * * * * *

authority over the unclean spirits.


Jesus, send us out as you sent out your disciples. Help us to overcome our complacency. Help us to go out and teach repentance. There are terrible demons abroad: materialism, individualism, racism, sexism – help us to cast them out. There are many sick people; the lonely, the downtrodden, the victims of discrimination and violence – help us to anoint them with oil and to cure them. 2

a staff  

In Ex 4: 2 God asks Moses, “What is in your hand?” “A staff”, Moses answered.

Each one of us is also asked, “What is in your hand?”

Everyone of us has a multitude of gifts.  This is what is in our hands. The gospel is encouraging us to develop our gifts to the fullest. We are being urged to use our gifts for the benefit and good of others.

  • We are called to be more committed to being in a closer relationship with Jesus;
  • We are called to make the world a place where people will be able to do Jesus’ work among their fellow men and women.

no bread

This refers to the message and mission of Jesus. The disciples and us, are called to bring Jesus’ message to the people in our society. We are warned not to bring our own agenda.

no haversack

So many of us carry unnecessary burdens. We remember hurts (real or imaginary) from long ago.  Each time we bring these to mind we relive the pain and add to the sadness of the past. Surely we must let go of the past and go into the future confident that we can be healed and heal others. Prejudice is in many of us in some shape or form – we may even reject allowing the Word of God to be opened up for us. If we let this happen we may have to change our thinking and our way of living. Come let us repent, let us throw off the burdens of the past.

no money

This is just the same as one of Jesus’ temptations. Do not think that you can buy people into repentance. Money will not bring people to repent.

11And if any place does not welcome you and people refuse to listen to you,

as you walk away shake off the dust from under your feet as a sign to them.”

At first glance I cannot imagine Jesus’ talking this way. He is not saying, “Well, if they will not listen, let them go to hell.”

Jesus is warning us that sometimes our best efforts to spread the Kingdom of God will end in failure.  He is telling us not to be discouraged when we experience failure and setbacks.  He is, so to speak, saying,  “Put on your sandals, do not be discouraged, get on with the next step in spreading the Kingdom.”   


Lord, when people reject us we feel a lot of anger, and that keeps us in bondage, holding us back like mud on our feet.  Help us, Lord, as we walk away, to shake the dust from our feet, so that we may be free to give ourselves to others. 3

1-3 De Verteuil, M;  Lectio Divina with the Sunday Gospels;  pp 180 – 181

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