Friday, July 5, 2013



 I’ve been on vacation this week at my brother’s house near Pittsburgh, enjoying visits with the dozen cousins that live nearby. (So this may be brief.)
I’ve also been reflecting on the gospel text for this coming Sunday in which Jesus sends his disciples out on a mission with the advice that if they should come to a town that refuses to hear their message they should simply shake the dust of that town off of their feet and move on. (In Acts 13:51 we see Paul and Barnabas do exactly this at Antioch in Pisidia when they meet with immovable opposition.)


In its most basic meaning the word “sacrament” refers to some outward sign that points to and effects a corresponding inner reality. (Think for example of the physical bread of the Eucharist becoming our spiritual food.) I have already reflected in a former post how the ritual of washing feet (see John 13) just missed being made into a sacrament that would have been a sign of our humble service to one another. In fact I think I have even offered to the following image before, but it’s good for me to hear it again.

I’ve been thinking the past few days about the could-have-been sacrament of shaking dust off of ones feet (or sandals, shoes, etc.). Jesus knew that his disciples would encounter plenty of resistance and outright defeat in the course of preaching the Kingdom, so he told them how to respond to such situations: Just shake the dust of that defeat off your sandals and move on to the next challenge. What a beautiful sacrament that would make! So if a pet plan of mine falls apart and I’m crushed, I need to take off my shoes and smack them together, symbolically shaking off the dust of this defeat so that I can move on and not carry it with me the rest of my life. 


A couple of days ago I was listening to a cousin talk about an acquaintance of theirs who had survived a string of setbacks and tragedies one after another (I forget the details) and somehow still managed to keep going. That’s a person who understands the art of sandal-clapping, who knows how to shake off the potentially overwhelming dust of disappointed dreams, sorrowful separations and incapacitating illnesses.  

Would you like to see my dust?
On the other hand we’ve all met a few people who make a habit of collecting dust. They can recite at the drop of a hat a long litany of their problems, tragedies and painful experiences from decades past. They are curators of their own personal Museum of  Bad Memories, and seem to enjoy wandering its halls – and offering guided tours to the unwary. Thank goodness none of my relatives keeps such a collection!  

This Sunday’s gospel is still good advice for us today. Let us pray for folks who have a hard time forgetting and moving on. Let’s pray too for one another that we can follow Christ’s advice, even if it means stopping in the aisle of the supermarket and taking off our shoes to clap them together a few times. Who knows, we might start a movement!



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