He sent them out with the commission of proclaiming the kingdom of God and healing. He said to them, “Take nothing on the road, not staff or purse or bread or coin Don’t take two tunics.”
Luke 9: 2-3
In his commentary on these instructions of Jesus to the disciples, Luke Timothy Johnson writes: “The point is not asceticism but a function of prophetic acceptance and rejection. Travelling without any provisions makes these missionaries totally dependent on the hospitality of their listeners.” (The Gospel of Luke, p. 148) Is there a necessary connection between discipleship and dependence?
Theodore James Ryken experiences, in his conversion at the age of 19, what he terms “a great humiliation,” an experience that can be also translated as being brought low or put in his place. In a very strange way, the real truth of who we are as human beings is a humiliation for us. As one of my teachers would say, “What kind of a being is it that needs to keep repeating, ‘For the kingdom, and the power, and the glory are yours’? We are, for a very brief time, a small part of the world, essentially dependent on the world around us for our continuing existence. In fact, we are dependent, but it is actually work for us to remember and appropriately live that truth.
In my early training of religious life, we had a practice that required us to ask for everything we needed. For me, this was, perhaps, the most difficult and humiliating aspect of formation. It probably was not really an age appropriate practice as we were so young that we had not yet developed an adequate sense of autonomy and self-direction, so we were not developmentally ready to practice detaching from it. Despite that, however, as I have often reflected on my feelings about the experience, I’ve realize how difficult it is to live out the reality of our dependence on others. It is difficult for me to imagine the life of these first disciples, going into a town or village with nothing and relying on the hospitality of others. Mendicants of all religious traditions have continued to practice such dependence. As we face these days the influx of refugees and migrants, and as we daily encounter homeless persons on the street, we are faced with the truth of the dependence of all of us on each other for our very survival — and we often react in fear and withdrawal.
In act and in thought we are inextricably bound to each other. Yet, we suffer under the illusion that our security rests in independence and autonomy. The result of Ryken’s experience is the realization that he is not to be a disciple and to serve the God and the world independently but rather in community, as part of a “band of brothers.” Community is not an option; it our reality. We are part not only of a human community but of everything that is created and its Source. The glory and beauty of this participation in the Whole is, paradoxically, also an affront to our desire to be self-determining and self-governing. We are reminded by the gospel today that we need to find ways to practice daily the right kind of dependence, to be willing to suffer the “humiliation” of our need for others if we are to know the love and mercy of the Blessed Community we are called to be.
It is through your life of gospel witness lived in community with others that God desires to manifest care and compassionate love to those who are separated and estranged, not only from their neighbors, but also from their own uniqueness; to those who suffer from want, neglect, and injustice: the poor, the weak, and the oppressed of this world. They too are called to experience, express, and share the love of God with the world through their own giftedness. In this life of following Christ, allow yourself, therefore, to be given away, together with your sisters and brothers, as nourishment for others, as bread that is broken.
Fundamental Principles of the Xaverian Brothers