Are we ready to be the disciples of Universal Love?
The Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Amos: 7:12-15; Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6 :7-13
How many of us in the joy of being able to travel are either planning our trip this summer or have gone on it already? I know we went on a trip with a few couples for about a week. Having a small car, we loaded it up with the essentials and then some. The car looked like it was going away for a month there were items for us and our dog, possible things to play games with, foods we enjoy and wanted to share and of course luggage. After our week as I was packing the car to go home, I realized how much stuff we had. We had stuff we did not use and of course forgot the element of mother nature and the fact that some items could not be played with because it rained. Why is it that when we are packing, we always say I will need this, and we come to realize year after year I did not need it?
Today’s readings speak about another journey. The journey of being a prophet called by the Divine and the journey of being a disciple sent us by Christ. Both journeyers are similar in that the message and actions are remarkably similar. Both are unexpected messengers of the Divine in terms of how they lead their life before they had a spiritual awakening and followed their authentic path. Both would not be received by some people because of who they were and the message they brought. Both were asked by the Divine to trust in the Spirit in not brining a lot of possessions.
The prophetic call in the Old Testament and the call to discipleship in the New Testament and for us as Christians who are disciples in our age is to bring a message that is not easy to say or listen to. The message in the Old Testament and the New are the same. If we want to be happy and at peace within ourselves and in our families and society, we must love each other. If we want to be authentic as Jesus was then we must accept all people as our brothers and sisters and form a new family or community made up of only those who we like or call family but those we do not even know.
Jesus sends the disciples out in two because in the Middle Eastern culture and world which Jesus grew up, he knew the roads could be dangerous if traveling alone. Jesus tells the disciples not to take any possessions with them because he also knew in his culture that a key factor in the communities where the disciples were journeying was hospitality. One would be welcomed into the home of a hospitable person and stay with them as the guest. It was expected that the homes would be open to fellow travelers and if the host were not hospitable the person, disciples, would go to the edge of the town and let everyone know by shaking the dust off their feet. The house where there was not hospitality would then be marked by the community as not following the community tradition and would be dishonored. The acts the disciples were to perform in healing, casting our demons and preaching the message of universal love were very widely accepted in the culture. Any healing of illness, spiritual, emotional, physical was an act of reuniting the person to community where they could not be a part of the group and no longer must beg or wait to be reunited.
What about us? As disciples of Christ, Baptized Christians, is our message of universal love? Can we leave behind our extra baggage that gets in the way of being and preaching that message. Our baggage is often our past which still affects us and weighs us down, it could also be our closed mindedness, or our lack of acceptance of those who are different than we are in color, language, religion, or culture. We are called by the virtue of our Baptism to have a change of heart because the Divine has made us the dwelling place of the Spirit. We are called to be different than those who have not heard the message and await our presence. Yet we know that our families are at odds, we know that our society still makes divisions between the haves and the have nots and somehow, we justify all the things we have and are not hospital to those who are in need. We also know how divided we are or could become when one political party or religion excludes those who are different in ideology or lifestyle. Do we laugh at jokes that are at the expense of others? Do we cross the street when we see our homeless brothers and sisters? Do we have such rigid ideologies that we exclude people from our homes and are not hospitable?
The questions we are asked today is twofold. What kind of home would we be if the disciples came to us? Would we not let them in because we are not ready, and we did not expect any guess? Would we have to talk to them behind our walled in homes through an alarm system? If we allowed them in and they started to speak of universal love, would we ask them to leave?
The second question for us is are we disciples who are comfortable with being the message of universal love? Do we go to church to fulfill an obligation or to have word and Sacrament change our mindset and hearts? Are we open to the stranger, or do we preach and live the gospel where it is comfortable? Given our day and age it is exceedingly difficult to preach the gospel of universal love when there is so much division and hatred because of one’s political beliefs or color of one’s skin. The ideology that we have is the possession that Jesus is asking you and I to leave behind if it is not loving.
Being a person of hospitality and a disciple is not easy in our day and age and it was not easy in Jesus’ time for the roads were dangerous, yet he sent them out two by two to seek out those who would hear the message and needed reunification of body, spirit, and emotion. Are we ready to stand alone and be different for the sake of universal love or will we wait until another more convenient message comes along?
Let us pray that we will have the strength to be the disciples we are called to be and let us pray that our faith communities will be open to the traveler who seeks to rest their bodies and needs a community of acceptance.