26 September 2012

Take nothing on the journey. . .

25th Week OT (W)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Dominican friars are itinerant mendicants, that is, wandering beggars. Nowadays, we are a little more sophisticated than our 13th century brothers about how we beg and wander but we still do both. Despite this tradition, I'm a terrible beggar and an even worse traveler. Between June and October of 2009—while studying in Rome, teaching in Dallas, and retreating in Oxford—I traveled approx. 12,647 miles by car, train, and plane. For an Ample Friar, such as myself, this is a feat requiring endurance, patience, and lots of clean sweat rags. Every time I started to pack my three suitcases to catch yet another flight, I would remind myself of Jesus' admonition to his newly minted apostles, “Take nothing for the journey neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, [nor] a second tunic.” Well, fine; he didn't say anything about a laptop, a Kindle, a CPAP machine, books, or a credit card. Am I missing his point? Yes, and probably missing it deliberately. When we go out there to take Christ to the world what do we take with us? What should we leave behind? Traveling light to preach the Good News means traveling with nothing but his Light. It means leaving behind anything that can dim the Light of Christ. 

 Jesus instructs his apostles, “Take nothing for the journey. . .” He could've said, “You will be given everything you need on the Way.” There's no need to take anything on the apostolic journey b/c God will provide everything you need when you need it. Anything more than you need is an unnecessary burden, a potential distraction, and likely to get in the way of shining out Christ's light. How much time and energy do we spend maintaining and replacing our stuff? Think about the time you spend taking care of a house, a yard, a car, a wardrobe, credit card statements, daily menus for yourself and your family, entertainment, shopping, running minor errands, time on the job—a job that you need in order to pay for all that stuff. If you had none of that to do, what would you do? In that question we hear one of the best reasons for entering the religious life, for becoming a friar, a sister, a nun, or a monk: fewer things to worry about means more time to be an apostle for Christ, more time and energy to preach, teach, serve, and pray. But what does “take nothing for the journey” mean to a Catholic who's not called to religious life, to a Catholic who's called to be an apostle out in the world? What does Jesus instruct you to leave behind? 

Every follower of Christ is sent into the world to give witness to the Good News. Paul tells us that “each is graced according to the measure of Christ's gift.” Each of us, in other words, is gifted and sent by the one-for-all Gift of Christ himself. Anything that diminishes that gift, that obstructs the mission is to be left behind. So the question is: what do you possess that prevents you or discourages you from following Christ as his apostle in the world? It might be a thing, a person, an attitude, or a habitual sin. Whatever it is, leave it behind. Do not take it with you. You don't need it. Literally, you do not need a distraction, an obstacle, or a burden in order to accomplish the mission you've been given, the mission you have accepted. Anything and everything you need to be a witness to the Good News will be given to you when you need it. Believing that and acting on that belief is more than a “leap of faith”; it's an act of true humility, a powerful sign that you are ready and willing to submit yourself to God's divine providence in His service. Take nothing on the journey and let His word be a lamp for your feet! 

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  1. This is good - thanks.

    1. Anonymous4:39 PM

      What NOT to leave behind, huh...?
      ...and my dad has a CPAP too...