In the gospel reading for the 14th Sunday in ordinary time, Jesus instructs his disciples, should they be rejected by a town to which they have come to proclaim the gospel, to shake the dust of that town from their feet. The image, as is true of so many of Jesus’ metaphors, is quite vivid. By shaking the dust from their feet, the disciples are completely cleansing themselves of any connection with that particular town.
Sometimes, that’s all you can do. We try our best to speak the truth or to work things out in a troubled relationship but the other person simply will not hear us. The process which ultimately led me to see that my first marriage was not going to work was long and agonizing but ultimately freeing. More recently, making the final break with a parish and a pastor whose vision of Church was so alien to mine was the end of another process that took years to play itself out. Again and again I had to turn to prayer to try and discern what part of my discomfort stemmed from my unhappy Ego and how much of it reflected my sense that this parish had lost its’ way – or at least was being led in a way that was not bringing me to Christ.
What’s the difference between “shaking off the sand from your feet” and simply giving up? An important question to ask in trying to figure out the difference is this - am I leaving a dead place in search of new life or am I afraid that if I stay I will open myself to a deeper and fuller level of living than I think I am ready for?
Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)
(To read more of my thoughts on the scriptures, you can find my books at www.twentythirdpublications.com)