My Dear Sisters and Brothers! Last week we heard of the three commissions. The Great and the Little Commission we find in the Gospels. The first commission from the Book of Genesis was given to Adam and Eve: ‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and conquer it. Be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven and all living animals on the earth.’
This Sunday we hear of the Apostles’ return from their mission which was initiated by the Little Commission found in the last Sunday Gospel. St Mark tells us that: ‘The Apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught.’ You may remember that our Blessed Lord sent them in pairs because as he also said: ‘Where two or three are gathered in my name there I am with them.’ As we find those pairs returning from their mission and bearing witness to what happened though their ministry this Sunday I would like to recall the testimony of three pairs from the history of our Church.
The one pair has been already introduced to you: St Louis and Zelia Martin, the parents of St Therese of the Child Jesus. Their mission territory was their family. Their love for Jesus overflew and natured the faith of their daughters. All five of them became nuns. One is already a loved and venerated saint: Therese of the Child Jesus. The life and death of the other: Léonie Martin known as Sister Françoise-Thérèse has been examined in view of declaring her a saint too.
The other pair was Aquila and Priscilla. They were among the first Christians. St Paul wrote of them: ‘my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I but also all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks; greet also the church in their house.’ In Ephesus as we learn they met a certain Jew, Apollos, whom ‘they took aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.’ Here we have a couple who supported St Paul and in a lively manner invited a stranger into their home and into their faith in Jesus Christ.
The third pair I would like to recall is: Joseph and Victoria Ulm. They were a Polish couple who during Wold War II despite the danger chose to hide eight Jews at their farm. When Germans discovered it they shot Joseph and Victoria who during the execution began giving birth to her seventh child. Next their six children were killed. A few years ago the bishop of the diocese they came from began the process which discerns the possibility of declaring the family saints of the Catholic Church. The faith which nurtured the family life of Joseph and Victoria inspired them to stand for life when they welcomed those eight Jewish women and men into their home so that they could survive the time when hatred for life seemed to prevail.
My Dear Sisters and Brothers! In a month in Dublin, Ireland, the World Meeting of Families will take place. It will be the time of glorifying God for the men and women who treasure and fulfil the first commission from the Genesis. They are missionaries of life: physical and spiritual.
The World Meeting of Families will be also the time reflecting the event from today’s Gospel when ‘the Apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught.’ Next month in Dublin, the married couples with their children will rejoin Jesus and they will tell him all they have done and taught. This time of telling the account of their mission as husbands and wives is also a prophetic insight for our whole Church. We as the Church need the witness of the married couples. We as the Church need to hear of the great things God has done through the ministry of wives and husbands who accept and fulfil the first commission. Our Church is recognising as saints more and more married couples because their family life is a life stimulating gift to the Church.