Take a moment to read today’s brief gospel:
Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick –no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave from there. Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.” So they went off and preached repentance. The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. Mark 6:7-13
I can’t imagine a lot of dust settling around Jesus.
While he sought solitude and took time to be still he was and still is from all accounts something of a mover and a shaker.
Those who had become stagnant and rigid in their attitudes and patterns of behaviour, and around whom the dust had settled, were quickly shaken from their complacency when Jesus came to town.
The Pharisees were challenged for their fear-filled fixations and the lukewarm were encouraged to run hot and cold.
But when Jesus speaks of shaking dust in today’s gospel he is coming from another angle. Yes, dust is what we gather when we sit and do nothing, but dust is also picked up when we energetically head off down the rough roads in response to the call of God.
In our lives we have many such God-given missions, perhaps little projects lasting a day or a week, other longer-term callings, and everything in between.
Often we embrace a God-given mission and then we get the heart-felt sense that this was not a project to be possessed for a lifetime but a calling for a particular (often unknown) reason and for a shorter season. This might not make sense to us so we need to keep looking and listening with our eyes and ears fixed on Jesus.
Perhaps (as Jesus highlights) the mission we felt called to “does not welcome or listen to you.” Jesus continues with a liberating instruction:
“Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet!”
I don’t find this easy. I’m more inclined to grit my teeth and stubbornly hold on to the little projects or the longer-term tasks since shaking the dust and walking away might feel like the kind of human failure I would rather avoid. But the voice of Jesus is often gently saying to me, ‘John, you have done what I called you to do, shake the dust off your feet and move on because I have new path for you that you can only see clearly when the dust settles from the old. Now come and follow me anew’.
When we fix our fists around a project, holding our own narrow perception of a mission and its outcome, we forego our freedom. But its this freedom that we must retain if we want to continue to hear the voice of Jesus and follow the life-giving path that he offers.
Thanks to be God our calling is not primarily to the missions that Jesus gives us but to the person of Jesus who is calling us afresh every moment.
You might invite the Holy Spirit today to help you discern the missions that are yours for a longer time, and the other missions that Jesus may be inviting you to leave to others.