“Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?”
This is one of my favorite prayers by Henri Nouwen, and I’m reflecting with it this morning as I read through today’s Gospel.
Today’s Gospel in the Catholic lectionary is the one where Christ calls the twelve together and asks them to “take nothing for the journey.” They are being sent out to evangelize and spread the Good News. They will walk long distances. They will spend many days and nights. They will encounter some people who are excited to see them and some who I imagine will do the first century equivalent of slamming the door in their face or ignoring the knock all together.
The journey is not gonna be easy, and they are asked to “pack light” for it.
Initially when I read this passage, I read the instructions to pack light as a request that the apostles not carry a bunch of physical items with them.
That caused me to go down a rabbit hole of “what could I leave out next time I pack for a journey?” As I went through each item I usually place in my suitcase or car, I kept thinking “No, can’t live without that. No, not having that would make the trip too hard. Nope, that’s a necessity they just wouldn’t understand back in the 1st century.” Clearly I have some work to do in this version of “packing light”.
But then I went back to the passage and thought about “packing light” in a different way. What if Jesus was asking his apostles to “pack light” mentally and emotionally as well as physically?
What if Jesus was asking his apostles (and us by extension) to leave behind:
What if Jesus was asking his apostles to unclench their fists and open their hearts to genuine encounter?
What if his insistence that they pack light was a reminder that He will give them all they need if they just have a little faith?
My prayer this Sunday morning is for the grace to consider what I need to let go of so that I can move more freely in love.