A Relaxed Journey to the Heart – Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Greetings from St. John’s, Newfoundland, just a few minutes from the easternmost spot in the country! I’m here for a visit with family and friends. Thus far, I’ve enjoyed good weather. And the views and hospitality are, as usual, incredible. It’s easy to experience the welcome that is alluded to in the Gospel today.
I have never had the experience in Newfoundland of the lack of welcome mentioned by Jesus, the experience that causes us to “shake off the dust that is on your feet.” In my earlier visits here, I actually used to slip a few attractive beach rocks into my luggage.
They make great paperweights or decor. I would guess that that kind of hobby is now outlawed by airlines (those rocks could be used as weapons) and possibly even environmentalists who want to preserve the natural beauty of a place. Newfoundland needs all of those beach rocks!
In any case, my packing these days is guided by restrictions on what travellers can pack and the fact that I aim to make my luggage as straightforward and lightweight as possible. That’s easier than it used to be. My iPad and iPhone replace several items. And washing machines are so easy to use. I’m not sure that this really fits with what Jesus is instructing his followers in today’s Gospel.
“He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.” Jesus presents a great ideal. I treat it with the same desire that I hold for his challenge to “be perfect.” Good to have as an ideal. But I’m 62. Perfection is no longer possible. And I pack what I need, and I need what I need.
The few words of the Gospel Acclamation remind us to look to the eyes of our heart. “May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ enlighten the eyes of our heart that we may know the hope to which we are called.” I’m probably better at that than I am with taking nothing for the journey.
There is the physical journey, the travel from geographical place to place. However, I believe that the verse in the Acclamation is speaking of another sort of journey, a spiritual journey. And on that journey, for me at least, the lack of things to carry has more to do with what I carry in my interior.
That’s something I take very seriously. In an Examen and any kind of self-reflection, I’m often drawn to the question of what I am carrying in my soul. What is causing me to be so grateful? Or, more likely, why am I disturbed and lacking peace? For the former, perhaps it is a sense of gratitude or freedom or peacefulness about my life and how it is unfolding.
Of course, I could also be carrying the opposite: a lack of gratitude or peace, a feeling of being trapped, anxiety or worry, or, maybe even anger at something or someone. I have a habit of using my iPad and spontaneously journaling (any likely deleting my thoughts once I come to a resolution, of sorts). It’s amazing what can be released in those few minutes of reflection.
I have come to see how detrimental it is for me to hold on to the negative things I can carry: the self-pity, the anger, the resentment, the lack of peace. Those are the weighty things that Jesus wants us to cast aside, so that we can journey in a more relaxed manner. My experience is that when I am freed from my interior struggles that I am more able to be present to the other.