Oh, the excitement of ‘appointment day’, the day in mid-August when every Sister received a sealed envelope containing a holy card on which was typed her assignment for the coming year.  Gathering in chapel and starting with prayer, we opened our envelopes and, always, a hush followed mingled with quiet sobs, soft sighs, and an occasional giggle.  That was it!!  Then you were off to serve wherever God, or the superior, wanted you to be.

“Lambs in the midst of wolves”?  If you served in El Salvador during that country’s 20- year civil war, you knew what that meant.  “Eat and drink what is placed before you”? If you worked in poor American parishes and visited neighborhood homes you knew what that meant.  “Take no walking stick or carrying bag”? If you traveled to your assignment with the rest of your new community, packing everyone’s belongings in a tired old station wagon for one trip only, you knew what that meant.

Put into today’s framework, however, I think of this gospel with a less literal interpretation.  I wonder if the ‘carrying bag’ Jesus warns of is the clinging to obstinate opinion regarding our faith or the vestiges of tradition over depth of understanding.  I wonder if ‘going without sandals’ means a willingness to walk in someone else’s footsteps as we try to understand our differences.

This gospel demands a simplicity of thought and action  to meet people where they are in seeking the Lord and not exclusively from our prepared agenda or catechesis.  I am inspired by the Jesuit who personified this so credibly as he moved among the sweaty crush of humanity riding the bus to work every day, and loving these people just as they were.  He is Pope today!

—Sr. Mary Ann Flannery, S.C. is Executive Director of Jesuit Retreat House, Cleveland OH.