On a Friend for the Journey
(Am.7:12-15; Eph.1:3-14; Mk.6:7-13)
In today’s Gospel, Jesus sends his disciples out into Galilee, to preach, to heal and to spread the love of God. But first he gives them some instructions.
‘Take nothing for the journey but a staff,’ he says. In other words, travel light. And ‘Take no bread, no bag and no money.’ So, trust in God. He’ll supply all you need.
Then he says, ‘Wear sandals, but don’t take a spare tunic’. Back then, rich people wore shoes, but poor people wore sandals. So, dressing simply will help you connect with ordinary people.
And then he says, ‘If you enter a house, stay there until you leave the district’. This means don’t be fussy. Accept what’s offered to you, and spend time getting to know the locals.
Interestingly, these instructions are very similar to the ones God gave the twelve tribes of Israel before they left Egypt. God sent them to the Promised Land with no bread, only one set of clothes, wearing sandals and carrying a staff (Ex.12:11; Dt.8:2-4). And like the twelve disciples, the twelve tribes were all expected to rely on God’s grace and providence.
Today, we are Jesus’ disciples, so these instructions are meant for us. Jesus wants us to share our faith by going out into the world, preaching, teaching and healing in whatever way we can. And to be authentic, we should live simply and modestly, just as he did, relying less on ourselves and trusting more in God’s grace and providence. He’ll give us what we need.
Of course, we don’t have to be anyone special to do this. We only need faith and a willingness to try.
Now, it’s significant that Jesus sends his disciples out in twos. This is a pattern throughout Scripture. Had you noticed? In the Old Testament, Moses and Aaron, Nathan and David, and Jeremiah and Baruch all pair up to do God’s work.
In the New Testament, too, Jesus never sends his disciples to do something alone. For example, he sends two disciples to fetch a colt before he enters Jerusalem (Lk.19:29-30). He sends Peter and John to prepare for the Passover (Lk.22:8).
John the Baptist sends two disciples to see Jesus (Mt.11:2). St Paul works with Barnabas (Acts 9:27), and he sends Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia (Acts 19:22). And two disciples walk together on the road to Emmaus.
Almost nowhere in the Gospels and in the Acts of the Apostles do we see disciples working alone. Why?
Perhaps it’s because ‘two are better than one’ (Ecc.4:9). Certainly, two people can be more effective than one. And when beginners work together, they can encourage and support and learn from each other.
St Gregory the Great said that the disciples were sent out in pairs so that they could demonstrate the two greatest commandments: to love God and each other.
Certainly, it is much easier to communicate Christian love when you have a companion.
Many years ago, a man was asked by his young daughter to explain why he believed in God. This seems like such a simple question, but at the time he couldn’t answer. Deep in his heart he loved God, but there was a problem: he rarely talked about his beliefs.
For years he’d used his eyes and his ears to absorb the faith, and what he learned he stored in his heart. But he almost never used his mouth to share or express what he’d learned. So, when his daughter asked him about his beliefs, he couldn’t find the right words. He was embarrassed.
That man was me. That experience taught me that as Christians we’re not meant to be ‘Lone Rangers’. Genuine Christianity means real connections with other people, where we share what’s in our hearts, our minds and our lives.
Have you found your voice? Can you express in words what you feel in your heart? Can you articulate your faith to others?
If you can’t, find someone to share your faith with. Perhaps a friend or a spiritual director. Practice talking to them about your faith experience, your doubts, your fears and your joys.
To really grow in faith, we need to talk about it. Learning to talk about our faith helps to give shape to our ideas, and it reinforces the learning.
Whenever we do this, it becomes much easier to do what Jesus wants us to do – to go out and share his good news.
Jesus said, ‘Whenever two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them’ (Mt.18:20).
So, go find yourself a faith friend and learn to talk about what you believe.