Lost Luggage and the Spiritual Life
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 11, 2021
“He instructed them to take nothing with them for the journey but a walking stick –
no food, no sack, no money belts.”
Perhaps no advice Jesus gave his disciples sounds more impractical than that which we hear in this Sunday’s gospel (Mark 6:7-13). Can any one of us imagine going on a trip and taking nothing at all with us but the clothes on our back, a walking stick and a pair of sandals? Jesus even instructs the disciples not to take any money!
Ironically, this very thing happens all the time. For several years, my primary occupation was helping individuals who arrived at their airline destination without any luggage. Believe me, there are very few things quite as unnerving as standing by the baggage carousel at the airport, while one person after another receives their bag and you do not. Finally, you are standing there alone: and your bag is not there. If anything in life is a test of character, this is it. I have experienced both having my luggage lost (in Egypt) and being the one people yelled at when theirs did not arrive.
When we are inconvenienced by some outrage beyond our control, and particularly when we don’t deserve it, our reaction will help us to discover who we really are and what lies hidden inside us. Many people understandably become quite upset in these types of incidents, occasionally even taking it out on others who are trying to help them—and this can sometimes mirror our reaction to God when we feel he has let us down. Other people, by contrast, are able to remain calm in challenging situations and begin working with the situation as they find it: the difference? Grace under fire.
Jesus tells us that we are, in the end, quite unable to pack our own suitcase in life. Instead, we really must rely on God, who knows our true destination and what we really need in life. No matter how much we try to load in the suitcase, we really can’t foresee every possibility. In situations where we find ourselves without luggage (having insufficient resources in a challenging situation), God wishes to provide for us, by giving us just what we need and no more. We must, in the end, rely on him, for though we may imagine we are self-sufficient, it is God who is actually providing everything for us, from our breath to our heartbeat. He also lands the airplane.
It is actually quite healthy to realize this. An “empty suitcase” is an invitation for the Lord to fill it. After all, even Saint Paul said in last week’s second reading from second Corinthians (2 Cor. 12:10), “The less I have, the more I depend on Him.”