Once upon a time, a thirty-year old woman applies for a job as an industrial spy. Together with several other applicants, they give her a sealed envelope that reads in large letters, “TOP SECRET.” They tell her to take it to the fourth floor carefully. As soon as she is alone, she steps into en empty hallway. She opens the envelope. Inside, the message reads: “You’re our kind of person, report to the fifth floor.”
Jesus tells us that when we move around to preach the Gospel we are to take nothing for the journey. Why? In the words of Benedictine Sister Verna Holyhead, “…we are to be God’s spies…”
In some sense, I am defining a prophet as one of God’s spies. An example is Amos of Judah, the southern kingdom. He is a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. Amos is an earthy man probably a little rough and rugged. He is disturbed when he hears that many of the Israelites in the northern kingdom are setting up their own worship centers. Many are falling away from the worship of the one true God. So he hears God call him to be one of his spies. According to Sister Verna, God’s spies reconnoiter “the possibilities for announcing” the presence of God in our lives. Amos travels north. He surveys-scouts-investigates-scrutinizes the faithlessness of the people so that he can call them back to true religion.
Jesus summons the Twelve to be God’s spies. They are to reconnoiter the people and look for those possibilities for announcing the presence of God in peoples’ lives. He gives them strict instructions: take nothing for the journey. Don’t pack a bag. Don’t make a lunch. Leave the wallet at home. Take only a walking stick and make sure you wear good walking shoes. The Twelve are not to worry about food, shelter or clothing. If the people they preach to are peaceable people, they will welcome the message and they will discover the presence of God in their lives.
Jesus summons us to be God’s spies. Our baptism makes us priests, prophets and royalty. Jesus summons us to reconnoiter the people we meet to assist them in uncovering the presence of God in their lives. But two things can hinder us from such a ministry: excess baggage, and, fear. Why do you think Jesus says to take nothing with you on the journey? For one, who is going rob me, penniless without food, shelter and other such treasures? What can they take from me? And if I carry nothing but a walking stick I am fully free to perform my ministry. So, admit it. I carry around a lot of baggage. I call them excuses. I use age, time, illness, and busyness as excuses for not joining Jesus to reconnoiter the people to preach the presence of God. Then there is that fear…of failure. Again in the words of Sister Verna, “…we must be prepared to fail, as Jesus and his followers failed, but without turning such failure into a career of self-pity.”
As God’s spies, brothers and sisters, God blesses us in Christ and pours out the riches of his grace into our hearts by the sacrament of Holy Communion. It is as if God hands us an envelope to take on our journey. Make we have the audacity to open it because in it God says, “You’re my kind of person, report to the Holy Spirit.”
The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.
15th Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle B