Unload! Go lightly! That was the advice Jesus gave his disciples when he sent them off to preach of God’s Kingdom for the first time. Get rid of all the stuff, mental or physical, that will distract you from your mission! If you expect folks to listen then get on their level; if you don’t, you will be wasting your precious time and sandal leather; the coming of the Kingdom cannot wait any longer.
When I read those words in Saint Mark’s Gospel today, I said to myself: “Wow, Jesus really nailed it! He could have been speaking to messengers in this age.” There is no doubt in my mind that if we ever expect the rest of the world to listen to Jesus’ message we had better unload the countless burdens that distract us from the core of what he said.
So, how should we lighten up? Well, first of all, there should be no doubt that we are overloaded with stuff, material possessions that we do not need. Of course, this may prove to be difficult because the sales-wolves are constantly howling at our door: Buy Amazon, buy Land’s End, buy Apple, buy Google, buy from the online catalogue companies that are urging us to get the best and the latest, the newest and the brightest even though we already have all that stuff and even more than we need. All this is a distraction, an interference with our capacity to discern what may be truly beneficial to our deeper self.
So, beyond stuff, with what else are we overloaded? Noise, for instance, the constant need to have some form of entertainment playing in the background of our minds. Perhaps, instead, we might simply take a moment to observe, listen and absorb something that is beautiful, overwhelmingly stunning: the onset of evening or morning, the sounds of a Mozart sonata, the smell of fresh rain on the lawn, the taste of vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate syrup and a strawberry.
So, with what else are we overburdened? The illusion, for instance, that we do not have enough time to enjoy matters spiritual: a quiet corner where we can concentrate on a special verse in the Gospels or listen to a spiritually edifying CD. Perhaps it may also be an opportunity to stop in for a visit with Christ on the way home from work. Do we have time for that deep delight of the Spirit?
Moreover, when Jesus sent the disciples out on mission, he expected them to be able to notice others and identify with their needs. Sure, it does take time, but this may be that one needy person whom you will intercept in the midst of your well-laid plans today and who will change the whole direction of your life. Will we make time for that one astonishing, unrepeatable moment that may come our way?
So, perhaps that is what Jesus was imagining when he suggested to the disciples that they leave behind useless luggage, traveling bags, loose change, extra food, belt purses and even a change of outerwear. Be unburdened of all those encumbrances, they only distract you from the true purpose of your Christian vocation that is simply to live God’s Kingdom publicly in the midst of people who are longing to hear what it is all about. Perhaps, in the end we may be astonished how light-footed and clear-eyed we become when the world’s distracting issues are seen as less important and we can finally set our sights on what truly counts, not for the moment but for the long haul.
Scriptures for July 12
Amos 7: 12-15
Ephesians 1: 3-14
Mark 6: 7-13
The writer formerly served the Anchorage Archdiocese as director of pastoral education. He now lives in Notre Dame, Indiana.