Bearers of God’s Presence
July 9, 2020
Be Calm, Be Decisive
July 10, 2020

Homily for 09 July 2020, Thursday of the 14th Week in Ordinary Time, Matthew 10:7-15

“And if you are not welcomed and your words are not listened to, leave that house or that town, and shake the dust off your feet.”
Today I invite you to reflect on just that little detail in the instruction of Jesus to the disciples whom he is sending out on a mission: “Shake the dust off your feet.” This is how he says we should deal with rejection.
The last time I was in South Korea for a theological conference, I noticed that even modern-day Koreans leave their shoes outside, on a rack by the door, when they enter their homes. This seems to be part of Asian culture. I saw this being done in Malaysia and Thailand as well. We used to do it ourselves when we were much younger. Lately, because of the pandemic, people seem to be getting used to doing it again, for very obvious reasons. I really hope we can restore this beautiful practice, not just for hygienic reasons.
The practice of removing one’s footwear is not just for hygiene. It also has both cultural and religious meanings. Remember that scene when Moses encountered God in a burning bush, how he was told to remove his sandals because he was “standing on holy ground”? (See Exodus 3)
It makes sense why. You’ve been walking around; you may have stepped on so much dirt. Keep it outside. Don’t drag it along. Don’t bring it with you inside your home or your sacred space.
The dust or dirt can be a good analogy for the hurts and disappointments that we often experience, especially when we are rejected. We can get so affected that we get disoriented to the point that we are prevented from pursuing our life’s purpose.
Sometimes we can even react violently when we feel unwelcome. Remember the disciples who wanted to rain down fire when the Samaritans refused to allow them to pass through their territory? (Luke 9:54) Remember how Jesus merely rebuked them. To paraphrase what he said, I think what he meant was, “Hey, it’s no big deal; let’s find another way.”
Shake it off! That’s unfortunately the difficult part of it. You can’t shake it off when you take it too personally. The Gospel gives us a good tip on how to do it. The work that you do in the ministry is not yours. It is the work of the one who sends you—namely, Jesus. And the work of Jesus is the work of the Father. This is what apostleship is about—you are being sent to represent the one who sends you. The apostle par excellence is Jesus himself, the apostle of the Father. Ultimately, it is God who sends you.
This is a very sensible instruction. When we are rejected in the ministry, we should not take it too personally to the point that we can’t sleep or carry on anymore because we brood on it. Remember how he said, “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.” (Luke 10:16) In short, it’s not you they reject but the Lord who works through you. Maybe they’re not ready yet. Maybe it’s not yet the right time. No big deal. Just shake it off, and move on to the next destination. You can always return when they are already better disposed for your message.
Apostleship is indeed about wearing the Lord’s shoes in the ministry, but not all the time. We have to learn to take them off too and shake off the dust of rejection, making sure you don’t allow it to get into your system. As you enter into the Lord’s presence, it is enough to be just yourself, with your bare feet.
I wonder if Jesus did not have this in mind when he made that gesture of washing the feet of his disciples before they partook of the Passover meal. Could he have been preparing them for the ultimate experience of rejection that he was about to face in Jerusalem?
Even John the Baptist used this imagery when, speaking about the Messiah, he said he wasn’t even worthy to untie the straps of his sandals. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was from John the Baptist that Jesus first picked up this imagery. And I dare say, that John himself had picked it up from the prophet Isaiah, who says, “How beautiful on the mountain are the feet of him who brings good news.” (Isaiah 52:7)
Don’t let the dust of rejection ever keep you from carrying on with your beautiful feet’s task of being a herald of Good News.


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