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Psalms 48:2-3, 3-4, 9, 10-11
Have you been deprived of something lately? I have, and it has hurt. I am speaking of losing something rather than someone. Maybe funding has been withdrawn. Or something has been lost or stolen. The car was wrecked. The computer has crashed. In this experience, the gospel reading from today’s Mass has spoken to me, and maybe it can speak to you too.
The gospel shows Jesus sending out his first disciples with the minimum for travelers in those days (Mark 6:7-13). He explicitly asks them to carry no money and no extra change of clothes. They should depend on others for their food and lodging. He challenges the disciples to trust in God rather than in the things that can support, defend, or define them. In this situation, they will know hunger, deprivation, and humiliation. Jesus trusts, I believe, that these experiences will lead the disciples to God and will make them available to other people.
We can be thankful that generation after generation gives us some people who want to live out this standard literally. These people, who make themselves poor in fact, help and encourage us to keep placing ourselves among the poor in spirit. For the rest of us, this text does not so much set a standard as raise a question: “In what do we place our trust?” Those of us who use things often begin imperceptibly to place our trust in them. We can let things defend us from pain or insulate us from people. Things give us power. We can ask them to define us. This temptation speaks easily to all of us. To me, at least, it speaks frequently.
That’s where the surprise of deprivation comes in. When I am working hard, I am probably not going to give up funding or turn down a new computer. But when the funding fails or the computer crashes, I have a chance to face that good question again: In what do I place my trust? I may notice some sadness at the loss, and I probably experience plenty of annoyance and anger at the inconvenience. Quite possibly, I feel humiliated. I can let those feelings tell me something about where I have been placing my trust. Letting the gospel question us is a tough process! But the questioning can help to shake us free from trusting in what cannot save us, and that freedom more than makes up for the growing pains along the way.
I pray today that our deprivations, little or big, will both lead us to God and make us more available to other people.
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