This week, in four days, two memorials and a funeral. The pandemic conspired to make it all possible, but there is still an unavoidable sense of loss, the kind of loss that needs to be named and known, suffered and then moved past, always with full acknowledgement. And so it is with life, with relationships and friendships, careers and choices: moments of joy and moments of loss juxtaposed, explored, exited. What matters is the dash between the dates on a tombstone, and how we live out the circumstances we confront. Essentially, that makes the Gospel for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time even more meaningful. It is a quintessential message that applies to so much in life. The words are often quoted and are simple and direct:
“Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave.
Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you,
leave there and shake the dust off your feet
in testimony against them.”
Life affords thousands of scenarios where the words are relevant. They hint at a clarity of understanding, a keen awareness of what is happening in exchanges and interactions, an understanding of truths, a commitment to honesty and a willingness to make choices. Jesus sent the apostles out on a mission, but even he realized the capricious nature of human beings, the way we respond to situations and information, and what we choose to accept and reject. What is most significant there is that sense of acceptance of who humans are. And so we are invited to be deeply conscious of one another, keenly attentive to what is really happening in each situation encountered. In a sense, it is easy to live in a cocoon insulated from the realities of our strengths and weaknesses and those of others as well. This invites humans to real consciousness of one another.
Behind all that are the building blocks of lifelong, healthy relationships: truth, honesty and love. These companions first challenge the individual personally and then allow attentiveness to relationship, sometimes even partnerships or coupling. Each occurs in the context of clear communication, an openness that finds spark and energy in confidences and observations, the exhange of the mundane and the sharing of tragedies and upheavals, disruptions and joys. To share truth means knowing self and daring to assess reality, to name and tame what is happening and to clearly articulate thoughts and ideas. Honesty demands seeing past illusions and perceptions to the core values that motivate and animate human behavior. It allows for the pain that could inflict and for the expansion of understanding. It is fearless and hope-filled, non-judgemental, and it generates light. Love breaths life into acceptance and understanding of one another. It is the strength to hear what hurts, acknowledge what could change and fully participate in re-designing new spaces in the world. Love does not give up whan the obstacles and road bumps appear; with truth and honesty, love enables the articulation of something new, strong and dynamic.
On the other hand, there is the second choice: recognizing that nothing can happen in a place and literally shaking the dust from your feet. Here, too truth, honesty and love come in handy. Truth means facing what is going on, no matter what it is. Honesty means viewing human responsibility, personal perspectives and others’ responsibilities clearly and purposefully. Love here means doing the right thing, choosing the best option for self and others. Love puts the truth and honesty into action.
The Gospels were written milleniums ago, but humans were no less and no more than what we are today. There were challenges and issues, differences and suffering, caring and cost. The idea of choice about what to do and how to do it was as much a gift then as it is now.