Veronica Lawson rsm
27 June 2012
To be a disciple of Jesus is to experience a call. It is also to be sent on a mission in partnership with others, a mission invariably expressed in terms of preaching, teaching, healing, and/or driving out of demons or unclean spirits. In other words, it is to be authorised to do what Jesus did and to proclaim what he proclaimed.
When we hear of Jesus casting out demons and telling his disciples to do likewise, we tend to think that whatever they did is something that belongs to another time and has little to do with our contemporary society. Certainly, the ‘demons’ that beset the poor in the Roman imperial provinces of the first century are somewhat removed from our experience. Nonetheless, today’s parents spend much of their time casting out the ‘demons’ that beset their children in our times. So do our friends when they sit and listen to the pain in our hearts and help us to let go of the ‘demons’ that so often inhabit our psyches. Many health professionals are paid to heal the hurts as well as the cuts and burns. They drive out the demons of fear and hate and prejudice and of paralysing mental illness. Educators also, aware that learning occurs only when students are relatively free from fear and anxiety, know what it means to drive out the demons.
It is significant that Jesus instructs the disciples to travel light. They need the basics to live and to do their job, but if their mission is to be effective, they must be free from the anxiety that comes from excess. A New Zealand psychologist, John F Schumacher, writing on The Happiness Conspiracy in New Internationalist (Issue 391), suggests that societies with the most material goods tend to be the most anxious. He refers to a study that found Nigeria to be the world’s happiest country. ‘Mutual respect, community-mindedness, an eagerness to share, reverence for nature, thankfulness, and love of life’, it seems, are the major ingredients for a stress-free or demon-free personal and community life. The study suggests that other components of a wholesome existence include ‘social connectedness, spirituality, simplicity, modesty of expectations, gratitude, patience, touch, music, movement, play’ and ‘down time’. There would be no need to shake the dust from our feet for want of hospitality if that were the gracious way we all chose to live. What’s more, there might be enough for all on our planet to live in dignity and peace.