Luke and Matthew relate the same story heard in this gospel from Mark. With Luke, you do realize, it was hearsay … he was not there to give an eye-witness account. It’s interesting to see the minor, but specific differences in the three accounts. For example, here where Mark says, “take no money,” Matthew lays out the details, saying “take no silver, gold or copper coins.” With his usual specificity he covers all the bases, not just the coinage in current use. Matthew begins his account of Jesus’ reminder to his disciple-missionaries: “You received without paying, so now give without being paid.” Where we read in Mark “whatever house you enter,” Matthew is more direct: “Look for someone to welcome you.” And, if when you wish them peace it is not returned, “take back your greeting.” Unlike today’s account by Mark, both Luke and Matthew quote Jesus telling the disciples what not to take on their missionary journey: “take no beggar’s bag.” [An interesting side note: St. Benedict tells his followers when they go on a journey to take clean underwear, launder and return it when they return from their journey.]
Jesus instructs his disciples to live dependent on the hospitality of the community, just as Jesus depended on others to provide for his needs. Remember what he told one of his potential followers – “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Jesus expected his disciples to “eat what is served, be satisfied with the bedding provided, follow their schedule, and don’t try to go it alone.” Remind you of the Benedict’s norms?
So let’s from all Jesus’ DON’T cautions, look at what Jesus says IS appropriate for our journey in order to carry on the mission of Jesus.
The first thing Jesus recommends is that we travel two by two. He is reminding us that we don’t have to go it alone. We need a good support system as we experience life’s ups and downs; sunrises and sunsets; pandemics and family times of togetherness. Sharing the good times is as important as sharing the not so great times.
Reminds me of an event years ago at the Special Olympics 100-meter dash. Shortly after the start of the race one of the participants fell. His sobs caught the attention of the other eight runners. With little hesitation, they turned back, lifted up their fallen friend, locked arms and all crossed the finish line together. The crowd rose to their feet and CHEERED for a long time. These young people were all winners! They understood that what really matters is supporting one another even if it means slowing down and changing the course to your intended goal.
Jesus continues: He recommends sandals for our feet and a tunic, but not a second of anything. (How does your closet hold up to this mirror?) Jesus asks us not to carry so much in our gunny sacks. Stuffing our sacks full does nothing to change the situation – just adds wrinkles to our brow and sours our spirit. Do what Jesus says: “shake the dust off your feet” and move on.
Jesus gives his approval to our carrying and using a walking stick. That way we can keep moving when we encounter ruts and pebbles and unexpected sharp turns in our path. Add support when you became worn out, tired and weary or wander off the edge of the road. (Listen for the sound of those rumble strips – they are not just for decoration. They call us to “stay alert”.) A good walking stick helps us stay upright and get past mistakes which could hinder our spiritual growth and practice of conversio. And, beyond that, it’s a fact that in order to do what we say in our community Corporate Commitment. If we hope to “alleviate the hungers of the people of God with the compassion of Christ,” we must first be compassionate with ourselves. (Corporate Commitment Statement)
Today Jesus sends us out once again, with authority over unclean spirits … over the rancor, the violence, the rudeness, the degrading language and actions, the insensitivity. The list could go on and on. We can conquer the darkness with a refusal to lower our behavior, language and standards. We can “shake that dust from our feet” and support actions on behalf of justice and peace because we are traveling “two by two,” with the sturdy walking stick of community and prayer, and wearing the sandals of our vows. Like the disciples, we heed Jesus’ admonition to stay put in the house where they took us in, we can anoint others with inclusivity, affirmation and peace. Pray God we stay the course…