Kempis begins his chapter on the value of adversity (1,12) with the words above. “Trouble and adversities” are not things we should seek out or cause, but they inevitably come. The measure of a person is how he deals with them and what he does with them.
Jesus, in today’s Gospel (Mk 6:7-13), sends out His closest collaborators two by two, giving them the power to preach powerfully, carry out miraculous healings, and perform exorcisms. Despite this, knowing that not all will be open to the message and all that accompanies it, Jesus, through personal experience (remember yesterday’s reading?) forewarns them of the resistance they will encounter (see the headline).
The Twelve must have been feeling a mix of excitement and apprehension at the thought of going it alone. Yes, they had been with Jesus for a while now and saw Him in action, but it is another matter whatsoever to be in the lead instead of in the background. But they do go out and meet with success — and undoubtedly failure. Can you imagine their conversations after being rejected? A great message and the possibility of accompanying healings are met with disdain! This may have happened frequently. The temptation to fall into discouragement must have been present often. This would have been an opportunity to for each of the Apostles to, as Kempis says, “enter into himself”: Why are they doing this at all and what does it ultimately mean for them? Jesus later provides the “otherworldly” answer when they get a bit full of themselves, adjusting their focus:
[D]o not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven. (Lk 10:20)
We should also note that this approach to evangelization puts on display once again how the Lord honors our free will (and we are to do the same). He could have, as we might say, “cast a spell” on them to be compliant. He does not. Love is freely given and must be freely returned. Certainly, grace is made available, but only to the extent that we are open to it.
Jesus prayed and fasted for forty days before beginning His public ministry (Lk 4:1-13), demonstrating for the first of many times the necessity of these elements of our spiritual life in order for us to have any lasting success in our efforts to grow closer to Him and bring others with us. We do “not place [our] hopes in anything of this world,” but recognize that God supplies the power and any “wins” we have are because of the power of grace.