July 15, 2018: Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading: Mark 6: 7-13
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.
There are some Gospel readings where, as I have gotten older, I realize my mind peacefully goes to similar avenues of reflection each time I hear the reading. Not so with this passage.
There have been years when I have listened joyfully and like that proverbial student with the raised hand been thinking, “Please God, pick me for the journey.” One year, in his homily, a priest referred to Jesus’ call here solely as the call to the priesthood. That left me painfully wondering how could Jesus’ call have touched me so deeply all those prior years if this reading is only meant as a call for men to the priesthood? Eventually I reconciled my understanding of the verses as the same call to one’s heart (for each of us), but perhaps that call is to a different and select ministry for each of us.
Today as I read this Gospel I am struck by the verse, “They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic.” There is a fine balance struck in the imagery here between prudence and trusting in Providence. Jesus’ message to His followers seems to be — imagine and prepare to the best of your ability for the journey — but do not be overwhelmed with details, or worries. Always leave room for the blessings and surprises our Provident God has in mind for us.
This trust in God may even challenge us to put down what we had planned, to accept the idea planted in our heart by God, and (to borrow a phrase from the vernacular) just wing it. My first three or four years as a high school teacher I used to prepare my lectures and notes beforehand, review them, and only after all of that teach the lesson. One day there was a challenge or difficulty. I do not remember what it was, but I do remember standing there with my notes in hand thinking that the notes were now useless. My heart said just make up an example as you go along. My students and I all enjoyed the new system. My classes became more interactive discussions. Being open to what God provided gave me a better system than I had been taught or even imagined possible.
I found what the Apostles had found all those years ago. Namely, God’s plan is prepared for any eventuality and is infinitely better than anything we could ever imagine, plan, or do on our own. In addition, God’s suggestions and ideas are available to us in real-time if we but quiet our heart and listen for them.
Can you imagine where we might be if we trusted God a little more and planned a little less? This week find one instance or circumstance where you hand things over to God. Tell God this one is His. Truly hand it over to God. Then, be still and listen for how you can help bring about God’s answer. Enjoy the adventure. Don’t forget to share the tale with a friend.