‘He gave them authority over unclean spirits’

Fifteenth Sunday of the Year B

In this reading Jesus sends out his disciples to preach and follow his example of healing ministry. Fr Adrian Graffy reflects.

Mark 6:7-13

7 Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in pairs giving them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 And he instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no haversack, no coppers for their purses. 9 They were to wear sandals but, he added, ‘Do not take a spare tunic.’ 10 And he said to them, ‘If you enter a house anywhere, stay there until you leave the district. 11 And 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.’ 12 So they set off to preach repentance; 13 and they cast out many devils, and anointed many sick people with oil and cured them.

Other readings: Amos 7:12-15 Psalm 84 (85) Ephesians 1:3-14


Earlier in the gospel, in chapter 3, the evangelist told us of the choice of the Twelve by Jesus. They were to be his companions and to be sent out to preach and cast out devils. It comes as no surprise now that Jesus sends them out in twos ‘with authority over unclean spirits’. Just as Jesus announces the coming of the Kingdom of God by preaching and mighty works, so too will the disciples confirm their preaching by their healing ministry.

They are to take no provisions for the journey. They are allowed a staff and sandals, which might have been considered essential for travelling on foot on the rough paths of rural Galilee, but they are not allowed to take provisions of any kind. They must trust that all will be provided. Furthermore, they are to remain at the house of whoever shows them hospitality.

Jesus has already spoken of the rejection of his preaching, the seed not growing to fruition. He has experienced the antagonism of the people of his own home town of Nazareth. He warns here of the lack of welcome the Twelve may experience. Some will be unwilling to listen to them. They are to shake the dust off their feet as they depart, showing that they cut all ties with those who refuse the good news.

The evangelist reports that the disciples, like Jesus, set off to ‘preach repentance’, and that they ‘cast out devils’, expelling the evil forces which were thought to cause suffering. We hear for the first time of the anointing of the sick with oil, and their healing. There are no reports in the gospels of Jesus using oil to anoint the sick.

In experiencing rejection both Jesus and the disciples follow in the footsteps of the prophets. Today we hear also of the banishment from Israel of the prophet Amos, who had sought to challenge the injustice practised in the kingdom.

Do you trust in the providence of God?

How can you offer others the good news of Jesus?

Let us pray for openness to the message of the gospel in our society today.

Let us pray for those who are anointed in the Sacrament of the Sick.

INT-IMG_5349 Fr Adrian Graffy (3)Rev Dr Adrian Graffy is a member of the Vatican Commission that takes a lead in Bible scholarship, interpretation and promotion in the Catholic Church.

Rev Dr Graffy said of his five-year appointment by Pope Francis in 2014: “It is an honour to be nominated by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. I feel humbled and very much look forward to being of service to His Holiness and the Church.”

He added: “A great deal has been achieved in England and Wales in recent years by many co-workers to advance Biblical scholarship and the provision of easy-to-use resources. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis for their efforts to promote understanding and love of the Bible, particularly through the publication of the teaching documents, The Gift of Scripture and the study guide to Verbum Domini, The Word of the Lord.”

Rev Dr Graffy received his doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1983. He taught for over 20 years in St John’s Seminary in Wonersh, and is Chair of the National Scripture Working Group, which is an instrument of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Fr Graffy is a past director of Brentwood’s Commission for Evangelisation and Formation and parish priest of Christ the Eternal High Priest in Gidea Park, Essex. Among his publications are the Gospel of Mark and the Letter to the Romans (Alive Publishing).

Listen to BBC Essex interview with Fr Adrian Graffy