Staying Until Leaving — Thursday, 4th Week in Ordinary Time—Year II

Jesus provided the Twelve with their message to preach, their authority to cast out demons, and their power to cure the sick. However, Jesus withheld from the Twelve some basic provisions: no food, no bags, no spending cash, no second tunics for warmth in the cold night. On the other hand, Jesus instructs them carry walking sticks and wear sandals. What is Jesus thinking?

Jesus wants His disciples to be mobile, so that they can quickly travel to distant towns, but Jesus doesn’t want His disciples to be self-sufficient once they get there. Their lack of food, of money and of a place to sleep, forces them to become fully present to others. It necessitates the personal encounter.

Jesus told the Twelve to enter the lives of others, to enter their homes and to stay there until they leave. But what does it mean for them to stay until they leave? (How could someone leave before they’ve left?) Jesus is commanding them not trade up from house to house, as better accommodations are offered, thereby alienating and dishonoring their first hosts.

What does this gospel mean for us today? First of all, that our most important work, whatever our state in life, is our personal ministry to the people to whom Christ is sending us. We’re all busy, but we must not be too busy for what’s most important. Our professional careers will end, but our personal relationships will last, literally, forever.

Sometimes when we encounter other people we neglect Jesus’ advice to stay until we leave. Someone is speaking to us and we mentally check-out to green pastures. Sometime we fail to encounter the other person at all, brushing them off like dust on our feet.

I’ve heard it said that something which often struck people who met Pope John Paul the Great was how totally present He was to them, with his eyes and his mind, as if they were for him—in that moment—the most important person in the entire world. Can we imagine a personal encounter with Jesus Christ being any different? John Paul was a very busy man with a world of concerns on his shoulders, just like Jesus Christ, but they both had the time for what was most important.

I want to live more like that.  Don’t you?

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