Getting back at someone, seeking revenge, and/or being unforgiving has taken a firm root in our fallen nature and our interaction with one another. Living from this perspective also skews our perspective of reality. If someone aligns them self with a particular political party affiliation, holds certain views, is of a particular religious belief, race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, more often than not, the dynamic and depth of the person is no longer seen, but a two dimensional caricature of them is assumed.
This posture says more about our own weakness and brokenness than it does about another. As human beings we are much more dynamic, have greater depth and wide ranges of beliefs and interpretations than the caricatures that our prejudices and biases cast on each other.
Certainly, throughout the Gospel Jesus models and shows us that this is not the way we are to behave toward one another, and Mark records a good way for us to begin in our interactions in today’s Gospel account when he writes: “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” (Mk 6:10-11).
First and foremost, what Jesus shares with the Twelve, as he sends them off to preach, is that they are to trust in the divine providence of God. God will provide for them on their journey and their itinerant ministry. When they come to a village they are to seek those who are hospitable to them, providing a place of lodging. Once settled they are not to leave if a better, richer, or more prestigious accommodation opens up.
For those who do not welcome or reject their message, the Apostles are not to bear a grudge, they are not to take offense, and/or seek revenge, they are to simply leave “and shake the dust” from their feet. Now this was a common symbol of passing on judgment for Jesus’ time, but the main principle is that they are not to carry the weight of their negative reactions with them. They are to invite and offer, those who accept and are hospitable will receive the blessing they have bestowed, and those who do not, separate themselves from the gift that has been offered.
We can learn a lot from the simple phrase of “shaking off the dust” from our Gospel today, because we so often do the opposite. We carry a cloud of negativity that weighs us down because of our unwillingness to forgive, let go of grudges, or our active ruminations of seeking revenge that feeds our prejudice and biases. When unwilling to let go of our negative reactions, we often walk around in a dust cloud of gloom, looking somewhat like a negative Pigpen from the Peanuts cartoon. In actuality, Pigpen, “Despite his outward appearance, he always carries himself with dignity, knowing full well that he has affixed to him the ‘dust of countless ages.’”
Jesus encourages us to let go of that which is negative and destructive, because it poisons and darkens our soul. God is the ultimate arbiter and judge. We can let go of our grudges and unforgiveness, trusting in God’s judgment and believe that there will be an accounting for all of us, including ourselves. When we do so, we can feel a wonderful weight that has been lifted and see clearer to witness to others.
May we seek to deepen our relationship with Jesus, learn from him, learn our faith, live our faith, and share what we believe to be true, leading not with judgment and condemnation, but with joy and love. With those that we encounter, may we answer what we are able, clarify where we can, seek answers to that which we do not know, and above all allow God to happen. This means being open to learning from others. If we do receive rejection or ridicule, may we just shake off the dust and move on.
Photo: Pig Pen, character created by Charles Schulz for his comic strip “Peanuts”, quote from: https://www.peanuts.com/characters/pigpen/
Link for the Mass readings for Sunday, July 15, 2018: