Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Dust Off Your Feet

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two
and gave them authority over unclean spirits.
He instructed them to take nothing for the journey
but a walking stick--
no food, no sack, no money in their belts.
They were, however, to wear sandals
but not a second tunic.
He said to them,
"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."
So they went off and preached repentance.
The Twelve drove out many demons,
and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Just finished cleaning my bedroom, straightening up the place and sweeping up the dust under my feet. There was not much of it. The Kansas soil is dry and wispy; we never tracked much if any into the friary.

What sort of testimony about the people will the Capuchin postulants bear from this place?

We've stayed at St. Fidelis Friary for seven weeks only. Many of us may never see Kansas again, much less live here. We have been welcomed here, welcomed as guests. The people of Ellis County have listened to us, hearing the voices of travelers.

But I have to wonder how welcome we would be if we were not known as Capuchin postulants. And I wonder whether we would be listened to if we were not known as Franciscans. If we sought to stay permanently, would we be welcomed as family and fellow-citizens? Or would we wear out our welcome? Would our words and be deeds be heard and seen positively? Or would they be interpreted with suspicion? 

The people of God dearly love their friars, their men of God. I am thankful for their warmth and kindness. But sometimes I felt like the affection we received from the people was not for who we really are, but for what we represent to them. The friars are like totems for the community. In honoring us, the people honor what they believe is best in themselves, their families, and their way of life. If the brothers accept this adulation uncritically, this can cause both a distortion of their identity and a diminishment of their powers. How do you preach repentance to those who wait on you hand and foot? How do you drive out the demons from a community that treats you so respectfully that you will feel guilty for chastising them? I think about the reception we got at church, our ministry sites, and anywhere the Capuchins' reputation goes before them; and I contrast that with the welcome we got at Walmart. I think about it often. Will the people of God still love you when you dare to point out where they betray their Lord and the Gospel? What will they do when you refuse to be idolized and subvert their unfaithful practices?

Speaking for myself, I have to say that I do want to be loved; and I do want my witness to Christ to be seen and heard, and to be honored for the glory it gives to God and the life it brings to others. However, I need to be loved as a person; I want to be loved as a brother. Religious men and women must resist being adopted by the people they serve as totems and insist on their adoption as children of the living God.

Let me be clear: there is good soil under my feet. It has blackened my soles, and I have no desire to scrub it off my skin. Kansas and its people are more than dust in the wind. But as with all the places I have known, there is some debris to shake loose. Shake it loose I will.

No comments:

Post a Comment