When Jesus sent his disciples out to spread the good news he told them to bring no extra money, clothing or food. That directive of his has been understood to mean that he wanted his disciples to practice poverty, but that was not it. He meant that is disciples should move in with people, stirring up their generosity, building friendships. That way of understanding his words is clear from Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus told the disciples that their efforts for people deserved to be rewarded with hospitality.
Jesus went on to say that if any town would not receive them, that on coming out to the edge of such an ungenerous town they should stop, and shake its dust from their sandals. Scholars point out that knocking the dust from one’s sandals was a ritual practiced only before entering the temple. People were not to track worldly dirt into God’s holy place. By reversing the ritual here, Jesus was asking his disciples to see the whole outside world as God’s holy place, not to be contaminated with dust from an ungenerous town.
The main message of today’s Gospel is that the disciples and those they serve should become close friends. We might, though, take that urging towards friendship between ministers and those to whom they minister, and extend it. Since Jesus called for a friendly relationship between them, would he not want a similar closeness to exist between everyone in his gatherings?
I am getting at this: shouldn’t the men and women in any congregation get to know each other? Shouldn’t the boys and girls in our schools learn to be at ease with one another? After all, each of us, individually, is made in God’s image. Each of us is a distinct, valuable person, worth knowing.
The other day a niece of mine who attended Bishop Kenny High School in the Sixties dropped in on me when another Kenny lady from the Sixties happened to be helping me with some work. They got talking about what Bishop Kenny High School was like back then. The classrooms for the boys were on one side of Kingman Avenue, and those for the girls were on the other. There was no mixing of boys and girls. My two visitors got to joking about what curiosity they had about the boys back then. They spoke of primping their hair when they were sent with a note over to the boys’ side.
The boys and girls were taking classes together by the Seventies when I taught at Kenny, and I didn’t witness any bad incidents. What I did witness was countless cases of mutual appreciation.