Travel light, Jesus instructed his disciples as he sent them out into the world to evangelize, to share the Good News of Jesus as Lord and Savior person to person and thus challenge the prevailing culture. That is the job description for us all as new evangelizers as hard even intimidating as it is.
“Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; do not stop along the way to greet passersby. Avoid anything that interferes with your mission. Travel light and trust in me,” he told them and tells us.
It must have been hard for them trusting that their needs would somehow be met. It is even harder for in our culture with our dependence on things, gadgets and conveniences. When I travel by plane I am amazed how many suitcases people travel with, trying to stuff them into overhead bins built too small for their cases.
Possessions are okay as long as “things” do not become “gods” in themselves. Jesus said to travel light because too much baggage can slow us down, burden us, divert our attention, open us to sin, make us detour from our mission which is to grow in holiness and share the good news of Jesus Christ by personal witness. That requires trusting that God will provide not simply physically but spiritually.
Material things can weigh us down, financially and otherwise. But there is other heavy baggage which can also get in the way.
We are influenced by others individually and through the media and most of that is good. But there are people who see dark clouds on sunny days and whose dark words influence us. They are “yes but” people. They see the sun and complain about squinting, they cannot enjoy a happy moment because they are in anticipation of the downer to come. When I left practicing law to enter the seminary I had people tell me that I was wasting my life, making a big mistake, blowing a lucrative career. I carried that heaviness with me for a while, second guessing my call from God. Do not let others rain on your parade or allow the naysayers to interfere in being open to what God is asking of you on your spiritual journey.
Another barrier can be dwelling too much on the past, hugging memories someone has put it. The good old days look a lot better from a rear view mirror filtered of the heaviness of any age. Have you ever encountered someone who shared a period of life with you but having been separated for some time? How uplifting is the remembrance of time past, but often after a few minutes we discover that we now really are strangers our paths having taken different directions. We can learn much from the past and need to be reminded of the values that have been tested and are timeless, but by dwelling too much on the past we can miss the beautiful moments of the present. God is present today and asks us to travel with him in the current moment.
Sometimes though the reality of the present can also be excess baggage. We can get so caught up in ourselves, our problems, our worries, our expectations that we do not trust enough that God will provide what is really important. We can easily get down about what is happening in our culture and families. Issues of life like abortion, abuse, euthanasia, issues of justice like discrimination and religious liberty, issues personal like sickness, violence, broken relationships can be baggage on our journey that make us anxious and disturb our peace in Christ.
A 46 year old nun was diagnosed with breast cancer. She wrote: “The whirl of appointments and tests was overwhelming. Within weeks I would face the stark reality of not only my mortality, but many other little deaths. I was to give up my job, my hair, feeling well, and last but not least my breast . . . I have worked so hard for you I told God, how dare you allow this to happen.” It was an understandable response. But over time her faith sustained her. “When I committed myself 19 years ago to following Christ,” she wrote. “How could I have known that confronting this evil – for cancer is just that, make no mistake about it – would constitute an invitation to die and rise with him. I can honestly say to God: I want to live in the present moment. Help me to do so.” The baggage of sickness and fear was lifted. St. Paul said in the 2nd reading, “may I never boast of anything but the cross of Jesus Christ.” Through our sufferings which he bears with us can come true peace.
What is wearing you down, holding you back from opening yourself more fully to God? Let it go. Jesus told his disciples to travel light reassuring them that they would not be alone on their journey, that they should trust in him and that the peace that comes from that trust would encourage others to follow him. He also told them and tells us that they and we are chosen people, through baptism we are adopted children of God. As Christians freed from the heavy baggage of the world, we can be signs of hope to others and channels of his peace regardless of worldly challenges.
The key insight from today’s gospel is when we open out hearts to Christ, joy can be ours. When the disciples returned after traveling light they were filled with joy. ‘Let all the earth cry out to God with joy’ our psalm response proclaims. “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you,’ the Lord reassures in the first reading from Isaiah made real in the Blessed Mother.
A couple was visiting China and entered a small village. They came upon a traditional looking building which had a sign in Chinese and English which read Catholic Church. They encountered a tiny elderly woman who smiled broadly with only two teeth showing. Using gestures and limited language they learned that she was 83, had been baptized at six there, and have been persecuted for her faith all her life. She and the local priest had been forced into hard labor camps for many years. She led them to a rope hanging from the bell. With great enthusiasm she told them that she rang the bell each Sunday before Mass. Her love for the Church, her endurance in faith, and her trust in our Lord moved the visitors deeply. They were embarrassed for their own lukewarm faith. On Sunday as they left the village they heard the bell and imagined the little lady smiling brightly as she on the upswing was lifted off her feet in joyful praise, traveling light and at peace, freed from the baggage of this world.
As St. Paul also wrote, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit” as you joyfully traveling light are lifted up in faith because you know that Christ travels with you, with us all if we allow him.