July 15, 2012
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Amos 7:12-15
Ephesians 1:3-14 or 1:3-10
Mark 6:7-13

This is the third calling of the apostles — the first occurred in chapter 1 and the second in chapter 3. Each of these callings is more direct. The apostles are told to give up their families and travel from place to place to preach the message of the Kingdom of God.  Whenever I read this part of the Gospel, I think of all the “stuff” that is part of my life and the things I pack when I will be gone for only a weekend. I was not at all surprised when a recent poll revealed that the thing that most Americans would most regret losing would be their cell phone.

There is no denying that our possessions slow us down. Look around you at those who text as they walk. Observe how baggage encumbers those who wait at the airport. The people of Jesus’ time could move more quickly. They had neither our large wardrobes nor those things we consider necessary accessories. Yet while most of us could probably benefit from a lesson in simple living, I don’t think that is what Jesus had in mind when he gave his instructions to the disciples. Why are they commanded to take with them a cloak, belt, sandals and a staff?

Jesus’ disciples would have seen the immediate connection with the Exodus instruction (Exodus 12:11) “This is how you are to eat it: with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you shall eat like those who are in flight.”

For the followers of Jesus, these items brought to mind the haste of the Exodus and the need they had to move even more quickly than everyday life permitted to spread the Gospel. Jesus’ instructions gave them the sense that their being sent was a foundational event and the urgency of what they were to do was similar to the Exodus event. They needed to be as free to serve God and as free from baggage as the Israelite. Their freedom from a preoccupation with possessions would make room for God. The Lord wanted his disciples to be dependent on him and not on themselves.  

The disciples were advised to stay in one house lest they be tempted to seek better accommodations. If they were not welcomed, they were to take only symbolic action—to shake the dust off their feet and move on.

The message of today’s liturgy is that the Lord provides…not with the manna of the Old Testament but with the power he has placed in the hands of a community called to provide for one another. And there we have the key. If we had the assurance that the community would provide, we would not be afraid.

The Eucharistic celebration both forms the community and expresses the communal life. In short, at this Mass we are “already” what we are not yet.