Today’s passage from the Gospel of Mark inspires me when I pack for a trip, even a weekend trip to visit family a hundred miles away.
What do I need to bring? What can I buy there? What will my hosts provide?
Jesus is straight forward: keep it simple.
But putting myself in this Gospel scene, I still have questions about this call to simple living. I wonder why he wants me to take the means of travel (staff, sandals), but not the sustenance (shelter, bread, money, wallet and extra clothes).
What’s his point?
Perhaps he’s telling me, “Quit being so self-sufficient! I’m trying to teach you that together we…you, me, our fellow believers… have a mission in life and I don’t want you getting caught up in thinking you’re going to do it all on your own. Get it?”
I don’t get it right away.
Living in affluent America…where we are taught from youth to make our own way, be financially successful, and to look down on those who are lazy or dependent on others to take care of them…it is foreign and uncomfortable to accept what Jesus is telling his apostles.
But the reason for his instructions is to free us from our enslavements to money, possessions, status, power. If we devote our lives to these false gods, we will be forever enslaved by them. Jesus wants us to focus on his mission: healing and resisting evil (casting out demons) in all its forms. This is an enslavement to God’s will, but, ironically, an enslavement that is liberating.
Under God’s protection, devoting ourselves to seeking God’s will for each of us, we are free from all distress and anxiety. God’s grace, God’s presence, God’s providence is there when we need it.
In our illnesses, loneliness, grief, in our consoling and comforting others, in speaking truth to one another, in resisting the forces that threaten life, we are carrying out our missionary duties.
God will provide the sustenance (shelter, bread, money, wallet and extra clothes). More importantly, God will provide the map to live each day in God’s company.
So, live simply and be fearless on your journey.
Jim Wayne is a board member of the Passionist Solidarity Network (PSN), and author of The Unfinished Man. He lives in Louisville, Kentucky