Take No Traveling Bag
14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 3, 2022
As someone who once found lost luggage for a major airline and spoke frequently to irate passengers, I always find it interesting that Christ gives the advice to “take no traveling bag” to his disciples (good airline travel advice today too!). This must be a very important principle indeed because Jesus actually gives this advice twice in the gospel of Luke – once to the 12 apostles when they are commissioned to go out and evangelize, and again this Sunday (Luke 10:1–12) to the 72 disciples who are going to go ahead of Jesus to prepare the way for him. Therefore, there must be some principle at work we need to understand.
I can categorically tell you that losing one’s luggage on a vacation is one of the great levelers of humanity – virtually everyone is irritated by things like this; but not everyone handles it the same way. Some like to make a point of expressing how important they are or how vital it is that they get their luggage right away. Others are more patient and kind, and incidentally, tend to get better service because they are patient. How do you react to a perceived outrage like this or something that is extremely inconvenient and not your fault? Such moments are extremely good at revealing what is in our hearts, what character we have formed within us.
Jesus, in this gospel, is not actually talking about how we pack a suitcase when we go on a vacation, but he is talking about traveling light in other ways. If my daily “suitcase” is too full there will be much less room for the Holy Spirit to add the things that I really need. In other words, if I think I can do everything by myself, with little or no help from God or others, it will be much harder to realize how much in need of God’s help that I really am or to be open to what God wishes to do in my life.
Going on a journey and finding no luggage when you arrive can be a disquieting experience. Personally, I have almost never been able to get away with only a carry on when I travel, and I used to travel all the time. Many of us do not easily travel light, yet when we are about to undertake a major project, whether it is directly for the Lord or in our personal lives, the worst thing we can do is to think we have all the answers ourselves. No one can see the future or the ramifications of our own decisions – we really do need the Lord’s help.
Periodically, the Lord will “unpack” our suitcases or they will “turn up missing”. In other words, we will find ourselves with insufficient resources or wisdom in a certain situation. Such times are often among our greatest blessings because only then do we become more aware of our limitations as human beings. At the same time, we can become more aware of the infinite grace of God. The disciples had to learn that they were never going to be self-sufficient without the Holy Spirit, a lesson we need to learn as well. Paradoxically, it can actually be a blessing to “carry no traveling bag” or, at least, to travel light and leave lots of room in our suitcases for the Holy Spirit to fill as the need arises.