15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In our day-to-day living, we become too dependent on material securities, thought to be essential or indispensable for routine existence. This is especially noticeable when we get ready to go on a trip and try to decide what to take for the journey. We usually take too much, trying to anticipate imagined circumstances or situations. Part of the reason for over-packing is that we are reluctant to break out of our established pattern.
However, we know that it is best to travel light. Carrying too much baggage slows us down. This is the reason why Jesus, in today’s gospel, is instructing his disciples to take nothing “on their journey but a walking stick – no food, no sack, no money in their belts.”
I believe that today’s gospel passage is not about economics – it is not strictly about how much provisions we can take with us. The key words are not “walking stick” or ‘food’ or “sack’ or ‘money’ or ‘sandals’ or ‘tunic’. The key word in this passage is ‘journey’. Life, after all, is a journey.
Jesus is telling us that if we want to know how to make this journey successfully, then, we must respond to his call: “Follow me.” The most common instruction that Jesus gives in the Gospels is: “Come, follow me” – as if he were a tour leader, guiding us on this journey.
Since life is a journey, we should not let anything to be an unnecessary burden or nonessential baggage that hinders us from going where we should go. We should not allow anything to be a distraction or diversion that makes us lose the right direction. What do you think is the major burden, hindrance or distraction in our journey? Very clearly, it is material things – money, wealth, possessions, worldly goods. We get so stuck accumulating material things, so much so that we set aside the journey. That is why Jesus, in another passage, tells us, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal.” “But store up treasures in heaven.”
The key to a fruitful life is not to be found in material things; it is to be found in spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity is what enables us to go into any situation in our life without props, without masks, without armors, without reserves. The image that came into my mind when I was thinking of this was the image of little David against the giant Goliath. David entered the battle only with trust that God who was with him to that point, and God would not abandon him now. This is also basically what Jesus is telling us: God is with us, and he will never abandon us.
As we journey through life, we come to encounter a Goliath. It may be something that is causing us a big trouble. It may be a challenge, a problem or a crisis. It may be a terrible decision we are forced to make. It may be too much worry – about where to eat, what to wear, how to get money for this or for that need… how to get more of more! None of those helps. What matters when we are on that journey and when we reach some crossroads in life, some unfamiliar and unwanted places? Trust in the divine providence. What matters is the courage to go on, the hope for a better life, the grace to perceive God’s presence.
That is what faith gives us. And that is what life is all about. If you put your trust and faith in something else, it will weigh you down and hinder you from moving on. It will certainly distract or divert you from what is really essential for this journey.
This is the meaning of the conversation that Jesus has with the rich young man who approaches him and asks, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus makes him realize that material possessions have become an obstacle to him. Knowing how his attachment to his wealth was hindering him on his journey, Jesus told the rich young man: “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” This is also what the Lord is telling each of us. If you are really serious about making this journey the right way, then, take nothing with you on your journey.