When I walked the Camino the fall before last, the clothes I took for an almost six-week trip fit into a relatively small plastic bag.
I thought of that as I listened to today’s Gospel in Mass this morning. St. Mark describes Jesus sending out the Apostles two by two, with the instruction “to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick—no food, no sack, no money in their belts.”
I loved the freedom I enjoyed both on the Camino and during the time I lived in Nepal and India, largely living out of what I could carry on my back. It is a freedom we don’t often enjoy, as we can easily let ourselves be weighed down by more belongings than we really need.
As a practical matter, it would be very difficult for us to follow Jesus’ instructions to the T; we don’t live in a world that easily accommodates our playing our role in God’s plan carrying absolutely nothing for the journey.
But that doesn’t mean there is not an invitation for us in this Gospel, as I’ve suggested on other occasions.
First, how much am I willing to rely on God rather than on myself? Do I have faith that God will provide us with what we need as we go about proclaiming the Gospel. That doesn’t mean we don’t need to make any preparation, but it does mean that we remind ourselves that, ultimately, it is God who steers our ship, not us. (The deepening of this realization was one of the graces of the retreat I did last month.)
Second, what distracting baggage can we leave behind? What is the baggage that distracts us from fully offering Jesus’ peace and love to those with whom we come in contact? (Again, this was something I spent some time reflecting on during my retreat, and it was quite revealing.)
Happy feast of St. Benedict, the person who had perhaps the greatest influence on the development of Western monasticism.
We know Benedict as the founder of an order that still thrives today and as the author of a Holy Rule that he established for his followers. What we sometimes forget about Benedict and his Rule is that Benedict was a layman; he was never a priest. And his Rule was written for the laity.
Benedict considered his rule to be “a little rule…for beginners.” It offers what could be called a moderate path to holiness, a path any ordinary person could take. He aimed that “the strong would have something to strive after and the weak would not be driven away.” One author suggested it contained “the moderation and compassion of the Gospel itself and it also has the urgency and the fire and passion of the Gospel.” Moderation is not a bad rule for us to keep in mind.
One of the things Benedict was concerned with is our tendency to be distracted from God, because distraction often leads to sins of omission or indifference. Hence Benedict proposed reminders for prayer at prescribed times of day. It was with the development and spread of Benedictine monasteries that the Liturgy of the Hours became an established practice in the atholic Church.
There is value in these reminders, and we might ask ourselves, what daily reminders or interrupters might we incorporate in our daily schedule to bring God to mind at various times during the day, to just take a momentary time out. Some people use the ringing of the telephone as their interrupter, taking a moment to be consciously in God’s presence before answering the call. It doesn’t matter what it is, the idea is to find something, anything the serves the same purpose as the bells signalling one of the “Hours” a call to mindfulness, a call to consciously mark a moment as sacred. I’m sure you can come up with a meaningful one for yourself.