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This Sunday’s Gospel tells us everything we need to understand minimalism


CC BY 2.0

Brother Silas Henderson, SDS - published on 07/14/18

Have you yielded to consumerism? Are unnecessary extras hemming you in?
Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by twoand gave them authority over unclean spirits…He instructed them to take nothing for the journeybut a walking stick—no food, no sack, no money in their belts. —Mark 6:7-8

When a natural disaster is imminent, authorities will often call for an evacuation. We certainly saw these policies in effect with Hurricanes Harvey and Maria and with the wildfires and flooding that ravaged parts of California. These are high stakes situations and there isn’t time for thoughtful planning or meticulous packing. Those who must evacuate have to make split-second decisions about what they really need, what is truly essential.

The same dynamic is at work when we receive an emergency phone call in the middle of the night or have been awakened by a smoke alarm. In these crisis moments, our response is the same as those who have to evacuate: we take only what we need and we goquickly.

When Jesus sent out the “Twelve”—his closest friends and collaborators—he was trying to stress to them that the work they should be doing as his followers was urgent and needed immediate attention. Moreover, he was entrusting to them his own mission of reconciliation and healing. There wasn’t time to make careful plans or to pack supplies for their journey. The time to act was now and they had important work to do: their mission couldn’t wait because there was nothing more important than proclaiming the Good News of God’s love and mercy.

This same urgency inspired Venerable Francis Jordan, the founder of my religious community, to instruct his Salvatorian sons and daughters:

Dearly beloved,
teaching all nations, especially the children,
to know the true God
and him whom he has sent, Jesus Christ.
I charge you in the sight of God and Jesus
who will judge the living and dead
by his coming and his kingdom:
proclaim the word of God,
be urgent in season, out of season …
Go, and with perseverance
speak all words of eternal life to the people …
Overlook no useful opportunity
to announce and teach the doctrine of God to all.

While Jordan’s vision has inspired Salvatorians for 137 years, his urgency and zeal are not unique among the founders of religious communities. In fact, you will find a similar energy and appeal in the rules of nearly every religious family in the Church. The reason for this is because these holy founders and foundresses were inspired by the same urgency that is at the heart of this Sunday’s Gospel: Go. Proclaim. Heal. Reconcile. Don’t be burdened by anything that isn’t essential for your mission, for my mission.

But this passage also reminds us that this mandate isn’t only for religious women and men or for the clergy. Rather, Jesus is asking this of each of his followers. Like Amos in our First Reading and the Apostles in our Gospel, we are also called to be prophets, announcing the Good News of God’s Mercy. This has always been the special responsibility of Christians and it is needed today as much as it has ever been before.

To whom is the Lord sending me?How am I living out the mission of reconciliation and healing that has been entrusted to me?What do I need to let go of (fears, doubts, bad habits, unhealthy attachments to things, etc.), so that I can be truly free to live out my mission?

Words of Wisdom: “Try to be free with regard to material things. The Lord calls us to a Gospel lifestyle marked by sobriety, by a refusal to yield to the culture of consumerism. This means being concerned with the essentials and learning to do without all those unneeded extras which hem us in … Let us put Jesus first.”—Pope Francis (Message for World Youth Day, 2014)


Read more:
3 Lessons about minimalism from St. Francis of Assisi

Sunday Readings
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