There are many magazines out there these days that give tips for travelers. Today we hear the Lord’s rules of the road for our spiritual journey. In the Gospel, they apply to the work of His disciples. But they are OF MORE than just historic interest. They apply, really, to every Christian’s journey and to every Christian’s life. That is why the church remembered them.
There are three particular instructions of Jesus in this Gospel that we can all take to heart…carrying the walking stick, traveling two by two and shaking off the dust when things don’t go well. Each of these evokes important images to help us on our way to heaven.
First, we have the walking stick. The Lord tells His disciples to take no food, no travel bag and not even any money. The one thing they were to take with them was a walking stick. The Lord knew they would need something to lean on. Hills were steep and roads were rough. A walking stick would help them keep their balance. Our walking stick today is a trust in God’s Providence. This is critical to our Christian life. We need to trust in God’s will. We see God’s permissive will in the things He allows to happen, His corrective will in the things that correct the direction we’re heading and finally, His affirmative will in the people and things the Lord sends into our life.
Very little in life is simple coincidence. God’s will is woven into everything that happens to us.
Everything happens for a reason…for our spiritual good…if we can see it thru the eyes of faith. Planted within every event, every failure, every rejection is the seed of a new turn, a new life, a new direction. This insight has enormous power for looking at our life. It can give us great confidence and peace. That is a powerful walking stick on which to lean. When we cannot figure out why things happen the way they do, there is the trust we have in God’s will and God’s Providence on which we can lean and rely.
That is our walking stick that will help us wherever we go.
The second element of Jesus’ instructions is His sending out the disciples two by two. If they went out alone, they would reach twice as many places. But the Lord sends them out two by two for the simple reason that they would help each other. They had a big job to do and to get it done well required teamwork, one backing up the other. In Genesis, the Creator God said…it is not good for man to be alone. We take that as reference to marriage. But it can also apply to the life of every Christian.
It’s great to have friends and family, but we also need partners in our lives as Christians. People to whom we can talk, seek support and on whose prayer we can rely. While we strive to live the Gospel faithfully, we need this ongoing help and support. That is why the community of our parish is so important. That’s why Sunday Mass is so important. We gather each week with each other to renew our faith, our commitment to the Lord and to be supported in prayer. This is a great grace. To know that others are lifting us up to the Lord in prayer, just as we do the same. People for whom we pray knowing that they are praying for us.
Saint Cyprian was one of the early bishops to make this point when almost 1800 years ago, he wrote…the Lord did not want us to pray by ourselves in private or for ourselves alone. We do not say MY FATHER WHO ART IN HEAVEN nor give me this day MY DAILY BREAD. It is not for himself alone that each person asks to be forgiven, not to be led into temptation or to be delivered from evil. Rather, we pray in public as a community and not for one individual but for all. For the people of God are all one.
The third and final instruction from the Lord is to shake off the dust of a town what will not listen and move on.
The message for us by these words is TO NOT BE PARALYZED BY FAILURE. Anybody here ever failed at anything? The Lord tells us this evening to shake it off! Nobody bats a thousand in this world. Personally, I’m barely above the Mendoza line. But as Teddy Roosevelt once said…there is no effort without error and shortcoming. All we can do is try our best and if we fail, come to terms with it, shake it off and move on.
So there we have it… three pieces of advice from the Lord to His first disciples and to us. We should hang on to that walking stick…and trust in God’s will and Providence. Everything that happens in life happens for a reason.
Secondly, we are to pray for and with our spiritual community. Fellow Christians who give us encouragement, support and prayer. We were not meant to worship in a vacuum. We need our community of faith. Lastly, do not be paralyzed and preoccupied by failure. Come to terms with it, shake it off and move on.
As Christians on a journey, we are not wanderers…we’re not nomads. We have a purpose and a goal. We also know this truth…that the Lord has given us each a mission and will give us the strength, resources and grace to carry it out for His greater glory.