Year B: 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Gospel: Mark 6: 7-13
As we read today’s Gospel, we should remember the context created for it last week when Jesus was rejected in his home town. It is the awareness that his disciples are likely to encounter the same problems that causes Jesus to take them to one side and instruct them on how they are to conduct themselves.
He advocates a great simplicity of life - they should take nothing for the journey but their walking staff. People are to know that they have nothing - and must then decide how they are going to welcome them.
Some will open their homes and their store cupboards and will welcome the disciples and the message they bring. Others will reject them. They are not, however, to take the pain of that rejection with them - rather, they are to shake off the dust from their shoes as a sign that the hostility stays with the people who exhibited it: being unencumbered by material goods, the disciples were not to take on burdens of rejection and unhappiness.
This challenge must have tested their resolve - and yet, they had travelled with Jesus and seen that people did respond with hospitality - often those who were least expected to. The fact that they did go out and preach and heal suggests that they were well-received in at least some of the places they went to. They were met with kindness and faith and their ministry could blossom.
Most of us would be very reluctant to embark on a discipleship that required us to leave everything behind and go out into the world with nothing. Certainly, in more developed countries, we have come to believe that so many things are “essential” to living that we cannot imagine life without them.
This is, perhaps, a lesson people in “poorer” countries can teach us. When you have very little, you are in one way more vulnerable - but in other ways, you have a greater freedom to be yourself. You are not concerned with projecting an image - or trying to convince others that you are something you are not. You take the risk of allowing people to see the real you. As Jesus points out, not everyone will respond favourably - but when they do, you will know that they are responding to the real you and not simply to affluence or good impressions. And when they don’t - well, Jesus had a way of dealing with that too!
What does it mean for me?
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