Here's my homily for the 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time regarding focus and clutter in our life of faith together.
You can fid the readings on which this homily is based linked HERE
I have been blessed to do a fair bit of travelling in my life.
The preparation in our house starts a long time before we leave
...making sure we have the laundry on the right cycle to have what we need clean when we go
...eating to empty the fridge of all those things that could go bad while we are away
...which can actually make for some interesting “last suppers”
And then there’s cancelling the mail, and the paper, and of course providing for the plants.
But...the hardest part is deciding just what to take.
So, the trick is to take just what you need and no more
...which is usually much less than we imagine.
I still struggle to get this right.
There is a whole movement out there in secular culture these days called minimalism.
It’s focus according to one of it theorists is intentionally living with less things in our life
...intentionally limiting possessions to those things that we truly need as essential to our purposes and values
...and stripping away everything else that distracts from that.
Minimalism aims for people to live reflective, authentic, intentional lives with less stuff in the way.
All good advice,as far as it goes.
Our Catholic tradition has spoken of it nearly from the beginning, finding it in today’s Gospel and in the lifestyle of the early church communities of the Acts of the Apostles.
In the 16th Century, Saint Ignatious of Loyola offered similar thinking in his famous ‘Spiritual Exercises”
...that have been hugely influential in our own Catholic spiritual tradition down to this day.
Ignatius offers the following as the “first principle and foundation” of these Exercises:
“We are created to praise, reverence and serve God, Our Lord, and by this means to save our soul.
The other things on the face of the earth help us attain this end for which we are created.
We are to make use of them as far as they help us in the attainment of this end, or rid ourselves of them as far as they prove a hindrance.”
Here Saint Ignatius is offering us advice and a discipline that echoes and parallels what Jesus offers to his disciples in today’s Gospel.
He sends them out to do what he did, two by two, imbued with his authority, preaching personal repentance and change
...but with minimal provision for their own material needs, no bread, no money, no luggage, no extra change of clothes
...to weigh them down.
Today, as his disciples too, we need to take some inspiration and wisdom from this in new and deeper ways.
Of course the the secular minimalists can help us to “simplify” our materials needs, stripping away the clutter and distraction
...so as to better highlight and focus on living the lives of self-sacrificing love that the Lord calls us to
...freeing us to be more like him now and so share his destiny as well.
Ignatius and others in the Christian spiritual tradition would add other “non-material, spiritual” clutter to the mix
...fame and fortune
...our good looks and reputations
...physical health and strength
...the need to impress
...passing sense pleasures
...all good things to be thankful for
...but without care also things that we can be slaves to
...things that can make us less free to be now as the Lord calls us.
Also, these especially days one can add our own opinions, views and competing allegiances
...that can have us wallowing in a world in which virtually everything is “political”
...including church matters.
This can degenerate into a kind of consuming black vortex of anxiety, anger and stress about the future and larger remote forces and events
...that can occupy disproportionate mental bandwidth and spiritual energy that could be better focused closer to us
...such as in strengthening and developing our own faith and spiritual lives
...building in our parish community right here as a place where we help, encourage and strengthen each other in what the Lord has called us to
...ensuring that our Catholic Christian faith endures in us and in our children.
Like the Apostles, sent out “two by two” we have each other, right here.
Like the Apostles, we have the authority of the Lord’s Gospel, but for us handed down and amplified by 2,000 years of wisdom based in lived experience and contemplation.
Like the Apostles we need to discern what to spend our time on and just what dust we need to shake from our feet and move on.
And like the Apostles, we follow the path and destiny that the Lord called us to, the path of God’s love, sacrifice, charity, healing, justice and hope fulfilled in the Resurrection.
No travel restrictions can keep us from this journey, so maybe it’s time to check and see how well we are packed.