Ite Missa Est: 15th Sunday OT 2018

Three simple questions for today: What’s your mission? What do you take? What do you leave behind?

What if I pointed at you right now and asked you to stand up and tell everyone what your mission from Jesus Christ in the world is? Would you have an answer? I think you should. Maybe you could say something right away. It might not be polished and eloquent but you could stand up and say right away ‘this is the mission Jesus has given me in the world.’ Or maybe you’ve got a vague kind of idea but wouldn’t know how to put it into words. I’d encourage you to give that some thought… figure out those words. Clear is better than vague with something as important as this. On the other hand, maybe that question would really throw you for a loop. My mission from Jesus Christ? Ummm… are you sure you’re asking the right person?

But even if you’ve never thought about it that way, I’m sure you’ll agree that God didn’t make anybody here with no purpose, no reason, no mission. And it’s nobody’s mission to just sort of live your life and get by and try not to do much damage and try to be sort of happy most of the time.

I just read the autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, and she thought a lot about what her mission was. She died in her 20s and was a cloistered Carmelite nun. She was so inspired by stories of missionaries around the world, and she longed with all her heart to go proclaim the Gospel in some far-off place where, in her way of thinking, she would ideally be martyred. But that wasn’t her vocation as a Carmelite, and what’s more, she was in terrible health. Virtually no one outside the walls of that convent had any idea that Therese Martin even existed. So if you feel like your life is too little and private and unremarkable to talk about some great mission, maybe you can relate to Therese. Because God showed her her mission, and gave her a heart to fall completely in love with it. You’ll have to read her book Story of a Soul to really understand, but one way she describes it is: “In the heart of the Church I will be love.”




Or take a heavenly friend of ours whose feast is today: St. Kateri Tekakwitha! Name one thing she did that anybody sitting here can’t do. Seriously, name one thing… you can’t. She loved Jesus with all her heart and she took care of the people in her village.

So that’s question one: what is your mission? As this Gospel passage continues, after Jesus has given the Apostles their mission, the next thing to come are instructions about how to pack for the trip. Which boil down to, basically, don’t pack for the trip.

Now the more excited I am about a trip the sooner I start getting stuff together and packed for it. It’s like a way to look forward to it. Do you do that too? And if it’s some really important mission, I’m going to want to be well prepared for it, right? I don’t know what’s going to happen. So I’m going to take more and more stuff so I’m ready for things. It’ll seem like the more I take along, the more freedom I will have to adapt and get by and get things done.

But eventually the opposite will happen. You pack so much stuff that it makes you unfree. You’re bogged down and encumbered. So the spiritual question here is, what is encumbering you in your life? What things are making you less free to respond to the call of Jesus in your life? Holding you back, like an anchor that keeps you stuck where you are? Maybe material things, maybe some other kind of attachment or a habit. What can you leave behind that will make you more free for the mission?

And when we look at what Jesus does tell them to take, it fits the same idea. Sandals and a walking stick… what are those about? They’re for hitting the road, getting going, movement. These things are both about being ready to go, ready to move, being completely and absolutely available for God’s work. So the spiritual message here might be, are you prepared to move, to go, to be available to God?

So really, the list of what to take matches the list of what to leave behind. Both are about being unencumbered, available, free to follow the call.

If you’ve got a vacation ahead of you this summer, I don’t recommend going with no food or money or bags.  The point is nothing so shallow as that.  The real question is, do any things or attachments in our lives weigh us down and limit our availability and freedom for God’s work?  Maybe those are things we ought to leave behind.  And amidst all the responsibilities and stresses of life, have we equipped ourselves to follow God’s call, whenever and wherever and whatever he may ask of us?

This packing list isn’t about what we have in our suitcases.  This is about what we have in our hearts. St. Therese, pray for us. St. Kateri, pray for us… and Happy Feast Day, dear friend!

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