Nothing but the Clothes on their Backs by Rev. Paul Grankauskas
Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Mark wrote to explain Christ
to the new Gentile converts.
Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick - no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic. He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave. Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them." So they went off and preached repentance. The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
Last summer, as I was preparing for the journey to World Youth Day in Australia, I remember checking my suitcase over and over again to make sure I had everything I needed for the two-week trip,. It made for a heavier suitcase, but I did not have to worry about buying things along the way.
Whenever we travel, we certainly like to be well-prepared. We have directions to get us where we are going, we have a place to stay all lined up, and we make sure we have enough clothes and money to see us through. There are plenty of daring souls out there who do not mind roughing it – traveling light, sleeping under the stars, planning things as they go along – but most of us like to travel in comfort.
The kicker is that these daring souls can probably relate a little better to the Apostles in this week’s Gospel. Our Lord sends them out two by two to surrounding villages with instructions to take “nothing for the journey but a walking stick – no food, no sack, no money in their belts.” These guys are to travel light, taking only the clothes on their backs.
To begin with, there is a lesson in trusting God’s providence. The Apostles are not going out completely empty-handed. Our Lord gave them authority over unclean spirits and directions to heal the sick and preach a message of repentance. All they are being asked to do, they are asked to do in Christ’s name. They are doing nothing on their own, and they are to focus more on what they are to give than on what they are to receive. They are placing their trust in the word of their Master that all they need – the words to speak, strength and courage, even their material needs – will ultimately be provided for.
Second, the simplicity of the Apostles is truly something to be admired. Not bogged down with “things,” they focus completely on their mission. They can go where they are needed at the direction of their Master. The example of these men, who gave up everything for the sake of the Gospel and Christ, has had a profound effect on some key figures in the history of the Church” St. Anthony of the Desert, St. Francis of Assisi and Teresa of Calcutta, to name a few.
Perhaps it is from these who learned to do without that we can draw a lesson for life. The Apostles were to be concerned only with their mission. St. Paul tells us that all of us should be concerned with only one thing. We are to set our sights on heaven, where Christ reigns in glory. Part of the theological virtue of hope involves knowing that God has promised us a heavenly inheritance, and that we trust He will provide all that we need to enter into that inheritance. We may seek the grace of repentance and sorrow for sins, we may seek the strength to endure trials and sufferings, we may seek the grace to be more merciful and forgiving, to be more ardent in defending our Faith. These things are all gifts that come from God, and we are called to trust in His providence.
Keeping our eyes fixed on the kingdom also means not allowing ourselves to be begged down by “things.” There was something liberating about that trip to Australia. The cell phone was off for two weeks, there was no easy access to computes and the Internet. In other words, there were limited distractions on what was meant to be a pilgrimage. For some, perhaps not having the iPod for two whole weeks was a challenge. But no distractions meant the heart was not divided. One could be open to hearing the Word of God.
Here we are in the middle of summer, a time of vacations and rest. Perhaps part of the rest should involve setting aside those “things” that keep us from seeing the big picture. Christians are called to set their hearts not on worldly things that are passing away, but on the good things of heaven – to pursue all that is good, virtuous, admirable and true. I suppose one last point we can reflect on with regards to this Gospel reading is that God does try to break through to us. Christ sends out the Apostles to proclaim that God is present with us. In the mystery of the Incarnation, heaven and earth meet. How sad if we were to tune out the voice of the Son of God, speaking to us through the Apostles and His Church, because we are too plugged in to everything else to pay attention. We are called to pay attention to the words of the Apostles as they proclaim, “Repent. The kingdom of God is at hand.”
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