Travel light

Sea of Galilee, November 2008

A travel agent looked up from his desk to see an older lady and an older gentleman peering in the shop window at the posters showing the glamorous destinations around the world. The agent had had a good week and the dejected couple looking in the window gave him a rare feeling of generosity. He called them into his shop and said, "I know that on your pension you could never hope to have a holiday, so I am sending you off to a fabulous resort at my expense, and I won't take no for an answer." He took them inside and asked his secretary to write two flight tickets and book a room in a five star hotel. They, as can be expected, gladly accepted, and were on their way. About a month later, the little lady came in to his shop. "And how did you like your holiday?" he asked eagerly. "The flight was exciting and the room was lovely," she said. "I've come to thank you. But, one thing puzzled me. Who was that old guy I had to share the room with?"

Jesus asked the Twelve to go on a travel. No flight tickets, no five star hotel. The condition was nothing appealing. He asked them to travel light. They are to bring only what they need: sandals and traveling stick for protection. No food for the journey, no money on hand, no extra clothing.

Why would Our Lord send them out on a journey and ask them to take almost nothing with them? There are several reasons for this advice. The more things they have in their hands, the more delayed they would be. The more things they need to attend to, the more they would be distracted. And the more they get distracted, the more would they forget their message. Having things can distract his apostles from fulfilling their mission.

Previously they were known as the Twelve. Now that they are being sent, they are called apostles. The root word for apostle means “to send out.”

The second reason pertains to their own safety. If they have more than what they need, then they are more prone to being robbed or harmed along the way. The less they carry, the safer they are.

Jesus asked them to travel light for a deeper reason, however, reflecting the personality of God. God is simple and is not complicated. God’s beauty and loveliness resides in His simplicity. He enters into our lives through small things and simple moments.

Not through earthquakes and fires like the story of the prophet Elijah. He found God in a gentle wind blowing and touching him. Perhaps some of us have already encountered God during those times: a simple greeting of friendship from a person we do not even know, an impish smile from a child we like, a comforting touch from a person we love.

Jesus has often reminded us that we get to be big by beginning to be small. He likened the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed. He did not visit big cities. Instead, he went from village to village. Beginning small does not mean giving God a little of everything. It is giving God everything even if it is little.

Be simple. If you had been to an Amish community who live simply, you might have noticed a pay phone in their compound. One visitor asked them about this modern item and an elder explained that if the telephone were in their home, it would control them. As long as it is out of their houses, they control it. Then he added, “Most people drop everything they are doing the instant the telephone rings and run to answer it. In their lives, the telephone takes importance over everything. The pay phone that we have out there is for our use. We do not allow it to intrude into our lives.”

Jesus did not want any intrusion into the lives of the apostles. He was teaching them that they need to trust in God. He was teaching them that if we have God in the center of our lives, whatever seems impossible is possible. Without him, not a thing would be possible. With him, anything can be possible.

Like the apostles, we are also travelers in this world. This is an occasion for us to reflect on the things we carry in life. Perhaps, some of us had been bogged down by the sad and painful experiences of the past. Perhaps, some of us are carrying the burdens of worrying about the future. St. Paul tells us that all of us should be concerned with only one thing, and that is to set our sights on heaven where the good Lord reigns in glory. That is our goal. That is our mission.

We share the same message from the same God who sent the apostles. The message has not changed: turn back to the Lord. It can be very hard to turn back to God if we are heavily burdened. It can be difficult to turn back to God if we have so many possessions in our hands and in our hearts. But, it is not difficult to turn back if we lighten our load and if our baggage is light.

So, the question remains: are we traveling light or have we been lightly traveling?

12 July 2009

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