By Fr. Joe Nassal, C.PP.S.

At our recent provincial assembly in Indianapolis, the Missionaries of the Precious Blood hung a banner with the quote from St. Gaspar, our founder, chosen to be a focal point of our gathering. It urged us, “Do ordinary things with great spirit.” As we return to the Church’s season of Ordinary Time, our founder’s admonition might be etched upon our minds as we embrace the daily challenges of the next few months.

All three readings reveal the power of right relationship with God that is needed to “do ordinary things with great spirit.” In the first reading, from the Book of Exodus, God tells Moses to remind the Israelites that it was God who liberated them from slavery by bearing them up “on eagle wings.” If they stay faithful to the covenant God made with them, they will be God’s “special possession, dearer to me than all other people.”

St. Paul in his letter to the Romans picks up this theme of the intimacy of relationship God desires to have with us. But Paul takes us deeper into the mystery of this relationship, reminding us that “while we were still helpless,” Jesus shed his Precious Blood to save us from our sin.

“God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us,” Paul writes. Then, capturing a phrase essential to our spirituality, Paul says we are “justified by his blood.” It is the Blood of Christ that frees us from sin, draws us closer in the circle of relationship, and moves us out into the mission of reconciliation and renewal.

What does it mean to be justified by the Blood of Christ? No matter what sins imprison us, or guilt haunts our step, the Blood of Christ seeps deep into our souls to bring us healing. It is Christ alone, through his Precious Blood, who gives us a new lease on life.

We see this realized in the motley crew of missionaries Jesus chooses in the Gospel. Looking at the vast crowd who “were troubled and abandoned,” Jesus chooses twelve from among his disciples to help him in his ministry to those on the margins. The call of the twelve apostles reflects the difference between making a living and making a life. Is what I am doing for a living, my life? Or, as the Quaker teacher Parker Palmer said, “The life I am living is not the same as the life that wants to live in me.”

These twelve were probably doing fine in their chosen occupations. They were making a living. But when he chose them to be his apostles, Jesus tapped a new life that was waiting to be born in them. In his terrific book on discernment, “Let Your Life Speak,” Palmer asks, “When I listen to my life, what is my life trying to tell me?”

These former fishers and farmers, tax collectors and carpenters, were now listening to a life that “gave them authority over unclean spirits” and the ability “to cure every disease and every illness.” They listened to their lives and Jesus spoke truth to them that gave them new courage to proclaim, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Being a disciple means “to be with Jesus.” To stay close to him, to break bread with him, to listen to his teaching and act upon it in our lives. The twelve who are chosen and sent “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” are called by name to address the evil in the world and to preach Good News. No background check is necessary. Though there may be skeletons in their closets that sometimes rattle and shake their commitment to follow the call, the impor­tance of naming these twelve is that Jesus chooses ordinary people to live an extraordinary dream.

Like Peter, we may sometimes speak before we think and so set ourselves up for failure by being unable to live up to our word. Like James and John, our tempera­ment and ambition may get in the way at times. But the naming of the twelve reminds us that we are ordinary people who are frail and sometimes fearful, weak and sometimes weary, who are called to live every day with great spirit.

Like the twelve, we may not be the brightest or the best, the holiest or the most honest. The bones of our disappointments, our despair, our dashed dreams may rattle in the dark corners of our soul’s closet. What matters is we have been “justified by his blood,” and summoned to live lives worthy of our calling in the dailiness of our lives, “to do ordinary things with great spirit.”




Fr. Joe Nassal, C.PP.S., a noted author, preacher and retreat leader, also serves as vice provincial director of the United States Province of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood.