Packing for Discipleship

2.1.18  Thurs.  Wk 4 – O.T. – (II)
1st Book of Kings  2:  1 – 4,10 – 12
Gospel  of  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 from there.  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.  They drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. The Gospel of the Lord


Homily:  Fr. Mike Murphy                  Packing for Discipleship

The first reading, from the 2nd Book of Kings, and the Gospel according to Mark have a common theme: to follow.  David gives instructions to his son, Solomon; teaching him the way to live as king and shepherd of Israel: “Take courage and be a man.  Keep the mandate of the Lord…following His ways and observing His statutes” (2 Kings 2:2ff).  Solomon had been chosen to rule God’s people.  He must do this in a way that honored God and brought goodness to the people as Go had brought goodness to the people.

†Jesus has already chosen the Twelve.  Now, He sends them out on a mission.  The Twelve are to follow the example of †Jesus; He who is: “The Way, the truth and the life” (John 14: 6). Like †Jesus, the Apostles preached repentance, they were to drive out demons and cure the sick.  On their mission, †Jesus was very specific about what they were to take with them.  It is not a bad thing to travel light; backpackers have made it an art form.  Many of us like to travel on planes with only a carry-on bag.  But †Jesus asked them not to take things that we might think would be helpful.

In a commentary on this Gospel, St. Hilary of Poitiers, a 4th century bishop, reflected on the reasons for traveling light.  They were to take “no money in their belt” (Mark 6:8ff).  St. Hilary wrote… “(They were to) leave behind any concern for worldly goods.  All treasure on earth is detrimental, for where our treasure is, there our heart will be” (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament Ia: Matthew 1-13 [Downers Grove, IL; Intervarsity Press, 2001]).  Protecting our possessions removes the focus of our mission as disciples.  We can be distracted by things.  Disciples are to be models of trust; believing that “God will provide”.

The Twelve were to take only “one tunic” with them.  St. Hilary wrote: “The garment of Christ is all we will ever need.” (ibid).  St. Hilary warned against taking on the values of the secular culture.  This will corrupt our mission for †Jesus.  As St. Paul reminded us: we are to… “Put on the Lord †Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh” (Rom.13:14).

In the Gospel According to St. Matthew, †Jesus instructed the Apostles to “wear no sandals” (Matt.10:10).  Here we find a difference between the Gospels of St. Mark and St. Matthew.  While Mark relates that †Jesus said to take only “one pair” of sandals, in the Gospel according to St. Matthew, †Jesus said to wear no sandals.  St Hilary teaches from the Matthew’s Gospel: “On holy ground covered with thorns and briars, as God said to Moses, we are urged to stand firm with bare feet and to have no other footwear for our journey than what we have received from Christ” (ibid).  To take on the mission of †Jesus involves taking on the Cross of Christ.  “Sandals” symbolize insulating ourselves from the Cross.  We are to carry the Cross with courage.  As there are pebbles or thons on the ground that cause pain when we walk barefoot, our mission for †Jesus might be difficult.  Trust that the Lord will care for us.  We are to remember that every place we go to proclaim our faith in †Jesus is holy ground because the Lord is with us there.  If we experience suffering, it should make us aware of the presence of †Jesus with us.

†Jesus tells them that they are to take with them “a walking stick” (ibid).  This is similar to the staff that shepherds carry.  The shepherd uses it to gently nudge the sheep in the right direction.  It is also used to ward off wolves and predators.  The disciple is to remember that they represent †Jesus, the “Good Shepherd”.  With gentleness and love, they are to lead people away from danger to “pastures of repose” (Ps. 23).

By traveling light on our mission to proclaim the Gospel of †Jesus Christ, we are better able to embrace poverty of spirit: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God” (Matt.5:3).  Simplicity frees us from being preoccupied with things that distract us from living a life of holiness.  Simplicity frees us from things that clutter up our heart and soul so we have ample space for the presence of God in our life.  Let us live each day, AWARE that we have been called to mission.  We are to follow †Jesus, searching out those whose faith is weak or does not exist.  In our families, jobs, schools and community let us share our faith by our lives, witnessing to the presence of †Jesus everywhere.

     In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.