As we continue our look at Mark 3:13-19, we come to a description of the call which Jesus extended to the twelve. Mark says that he appointed them “to be with him.” He called them into communion.
No more unfortunate separation has been made in the Christian faith than the dichotomy between “the personal Gospel” and “the social Gospel.” There is only one Gospel, and it contains both personal and social elements. We can no more describe our faith by one dimension than we can define breathing by either inhaling or exhaling. Our faith is unitive; the personal and social are equals.
But a look at Jesus’ relationship with the twelve and a look at church history does reveal that being “with him” is prior to going “for him.” The Christian tradition testifies that contemplation is the basis for everything else; having “eyes to see and ears to hear” are prerequisites to knowing where we are to go and what we are to do when we get there. Moreover, it is in being “with him” that we receive the power to do what Jesus calls us to do.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus differentiated between his “works” and his “work.” His works were all the activities he engaged in. But his “work” was to do the will of God who sent him (4:34). Almost ten times in the Gospel he shows that he discerned that “work” through communion with the Father—only doing what he saw the Father doing and only saying what the Father told him to say. Jesus “saw” and “heard” in his times of communion—so much so that Luke records that he regularly withdrew from the tasks of his ministry to pray (5:15-16).
We are given the example which empowers ministry for the moment and sustains it for a lifetime. We are called to communion with Jesus, out of which we will receive our “marching orders” and the power to complete our assignments. We must never make prayer more important than action, but we will make it prior to and foundational for action. The ministry to which we are called is rooted in communion; we are called to be contemplatives: those who do the Father’s will on the basis of having “seen” and “heard” God through regular times of prayer.