What We Carry … 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time
I completed the 800 km Camino de Santiago de Compostela during a sabbatical in the fall of 2009. Some of the best spiritual preparation came from reading Joyce Rupp’s Walk in a Relaxed Manner – Life Lessons from the Camino. Since then, I have loved that notion of walking in a physically relaxed manner and with a spiritually light attitude. I place her title up there with a phrase from another book, this time from a novel – Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. That relaxed and light manner has to do with many elements: the weight of the backpack, the consolations and desolations in my heart, the anxieties and hopes, the way I slept the night before, and so on. I’m also attracted to the title of a short story from Tim O’Brien, a USA writer: The Things They Carried, about Vietnam War veterans and the items they carried in their backpacks and in their hearts.
Jesus is offering something similar in today’s Gospel reading. “Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals …” He also suggests that the seventy go with an attitude of peace and freedom. Bring peace and be prepared to accept hospitality. But he also warns them to be prepared for no welcome. In that case, “Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you.”
Life is challenging and complicated. There are very few of us who have it easy, whether it is external matters or interior movements in our lives. The issues could be our own health or financial situation, mental health concerns, addictions, the situation of family, our work, the heavy and challenging situation of our world or Church, the ecological devastation we see in so many areas of the globe, or anxieties deeply imbedded in us since childhood. It can feel like a life-giving pilgrimage on healthy days and like a tough trek on stressful days.
There are many advantages to walking in relaxation, lightness and peace through our days and upon the earth. But that is not easy. How do we get to that place of peace and freedom? Jesus often invites us to peace and trust. He invites us to come apart and rest a while. But an invitation is not usually enough. Spiritual practices can help give us that peace. What works for you? Is it a favourite spiritual book? A quiet and contemplative walk? Is it taking time apart? Does that peace come from a heart-to-heart conversation with a dear friend? Trust whatever means help during times of difficulty.
Let me just offer a few of the life lessons offered by Joyce Rupp.
- Embrace beauty
- Remember: Life is a great adventure
- Live in the now
- Be attentive to your body
- Acknowledge the kindness of strangers
- Don’t let difficulties deter you
- Look for unannounced angels
- Savour solitude
- Have a sense of humour
- Let yourself be humbled by weakness
- Travel lightly
- Enter into the hum of humanity.
 I wrote an article about the pilgrimage. I recounted the experience, but more significantly, I used it to offer a few insights about Ignatian spirituality, in particular the interior movements of consolation and desolation. The Camino and the Cochlear Implant – Being Guided into the Way of Peace, in The Way, 50/2, April 2011.