Greetings, SBT Readers!
Here, in Chicago, we are almost in post-pandemic mode. Being able to venture outside without a mask, eat at restaurants and attend social events creates the sense that life is more or less back to "normal." Some companies are summoning their employees back to their physical locations and schools will be holding "in-person" classes in the fall. All this is cause for celebration. HOWEVER-- the Delta variant is emerging as a new threat, especially in areas with a low vaccination rate. Our sense of freedom right now ignores the reality that no one is really "safe" unless all are safe. This is the lesson learned across Asia and, most recently, in African nations; it is a lesson that is also unfolding in those American states with lax social distancing requirements and/ or limited mask mandates.
"No one is really 'safe' unless all are safe." "Vaccine-rich" countries may have a short-term advantage over countries that are "vaccine poor," but this inequity will eventually catch up with everyone. As a global community, we have already seen that the effects of climate change spare no one -- rich and poor alike! So, too, with this pandemic. The message seems to be that as long as nations hoard resources and protect their own without a care for the rest of the world, the day of reckoning will come.
For now, like the rest of Chicago, I'm enjoying a new sense of freedom. Sadly, reports from other communities at home and abroad suggest that it's too early to ditch masks and hand sanitizer. The pandemic will only end when we can think beyond our own "borders," however we define them!
Jesus summoned the Twelve and began sending them out two by two, giving them authority over unclean spirits.
He instructed them to take nothing for the journey
except a walking stick—neither food, nor bag, nor money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals
but not a second tunic.
He said to them,
“Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the town. And if a place does not welcome you or listen to you,
leave there and shake the dust off your feet as a
testimony against them.”
So they went off and preached repentance.
The Twelve drove out many demons,
and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
Between the first "summoning" of the Twelve in Mk 3:13-19 when Jesus installed them as apostles to their "sending forth" in Mk 6:7-13, much has happened. They have not only listened to Jesus' parables and observed his miracles, but they have also witnessed the growing opposition towards him. The scribes, for example, accuse him of being possessed by Beelzebub, and his own relatives assume he is out of his mind; moreover, the Gerasenes beg him to leave their territory while his former neighbors "take offense at him" when he teaches in the synagogue in Nazareth. By now, they must understand that being the "chosen Twelve" is not a ticket to "Easy Street." On the contrary, if they share Jesus' message they are likely to encounter similar rejection. Their formation, then, has taught them that spiritual power --teaching, preaching, healing, casting out demons-- has a price tag attached.
Jesus' instructions reinforce this. The apostles are to travel in pairs to support one another, but are to take nothing with them except sandals, tunic and a walking stick! In effect, he is sending them out into a hostile world without any source of sustenance or protection from the elements. As for the walking sticks, they are unlikely to be much good in warding off wild beasts or hostile humans. Having no monetary value, they cannot be traded for food, a night at an inn, or additional clothing. Their only use is to help the Twelve cover rough terrain, supporting them up steep inclines or allowing them to clear the brambles in their path.
And yet they go, as instructed, preaching repentance, healing the sick and driving out demons. They have no script, no magical potions, and no credentials of any kind. Their "nakedness," however, is what allows God to work with them and through them. They have no cloaks, but they are garbed in the power of Jesus; they lack oratorical training, but Jesus' words have been imprinted in their hearts; they have little medical knowledge but have learned how to lay on hands; they have no experience in dealing with the demonic, yet they can expel demons by the power of Jesus' name...
In their vulnerability and complete dependence on Jesus, the Twelve become emissaries of God's Reign. If we are to fulfill
our baptismal calling, we, too, must travel lightly. We don't need fancy titles, fat bank accounts, impressive resumes or extraordinary gifts; rather, with empty pockets and without luggage of any kind, we become fully available to the Spirit. Only then can we preach the Good News, continuing Jesus' outreach to a world so desperately in need of healing.