Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
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. Mark 6:7-13
This Gospel reading makes me picture an air conditioning sales team (look y’all, it’s hot out there - the brain goes where it wants). I can picture them in their bright blue polo shirts gathered together in the office before taking off to go house to house. The boss sits down the sales teams and splits them up in groups of two, for the sake of safety and accountability. He reviews the quota and possible prizes for best sales team. He creates a format for how the conversations should go. ‘Begin with a firm handshake and genuine smile. Ask how their air conditioning is doing. Move the conversation into how much they are paying per month for air conditioning and see if you can get them to crack. After that, present these 3 points…’ The teams practice on each other before moving out into the neighborhood.
And then I picture Jesus’ teams of two and his speech to his apostles before leaving. And suddenly there is a glaring difference. Jesus didn’t talk about their conversations or what theology they need to sell to the people. He focused on the lifestyle of those he was sending out. He focused on what they would wear, how many possessions they should have…
Jesus asks his apostles to let go of their securities, their homes, possessions, clothing, money. They are going to need to trust Jesus fully. They must trade in security for simplicity, and in return, they are gifted the power of the Holy Spirit to cure the sick and drive out evil spirits. In two words, Jesus’ message to his apostles before sending them out is: travel light.
Travel light in possessions and travel light in your heart. Our worldly blessings (wealth, possessions, health, success, etc.) can stunt our desire for God and our freedom to follow Christ. Our hearts, as well, can grow to love good things in a way that they become unhealthily attached. St. Ignatius preached the importance of detachment, “We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one.” Instead he counsels us to attach our hearts solely on Christ. While we may use our health, wealth, family, friends, success and possessions for the glory of God, we must discern if we are really doing that. St. Ignatius talks about “making use of those things that help to bring us closer to God and leaving aside those things that don’t.”
And so this week we ask:
What attachments am I holding onto that I might be better off letting go?
Does my life reflect the truth that the greatest treasure I carry is the good news of Jesus?
When others see me, does the message of Jesus shine clearly through my life or is it being distorted by my unhealthy attachments?
Two thousand years ago people judged the message of Christ by the life of the messengers more than by the words they spoke. That has not changed. Former Brazilian Archbishop Dom Helder Camara used to tell his catechists (and I think it applies to us, too), ‘Sisters and brothers, watch how you live. Your lives may be the only gospel your listeners will ever read’.