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Pack Only What Is Essential

The role of General Councilor has me on the road and in the sky quite regularly. A question that I am asked from time to time is just how much I travel. I generally don’t know what to say other than “I pack and unpack a lot.” So I sat up straight when recently hearing Jesus’s packing instructions for the Twelve as he sent them on mission:Take nothing for the journey but a walking stick—no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic.” I have been thinking about how much I pack—and overpack—and how tough it is to pare things down to essentials. 

And I’ve been thinking about the unspoken message in Jesus’s instruction. In educational ministry it’s a great question to ask ourselves from time to time: What is essential?  

Perhaps our answer is much the same as it was for the Twelve. All we really need is a clear sense of who we are and what we are doing. Simply, all I really need is my presence and my message, or better, my re-presentation of the presence and the message of the one who is sending me in the first place, Jesus. De La Salle, as far as I can tell, doesn’t use this language of “essentiality,” but some key meditations certainly help guide us in honing on what is essential for our word and work. 

In the Epiphany meditation he urges us to “Recognize Jesus beneath the poor rags of the children whom you have to instruct; adore him in them” (96.3). In the ninth meditation for the time of retreat he writes, “You must also show the Church what love you have for her  and give her proof of your zeal, because it is for the Church (which is the body of Jesus Christ) that you work. You have become her ministers, according to the order that God has given you to dispense his word” (201.2).  

Two more meditations carry the theme of what is essential forward. For Palm Sunday, De La Salle writes, “Be disposed today, then, to receive Jesus Christ fully by abandoning yourself entirely to his guidance and by letting him reign over your whole interior life, so absolutely on his part and so dependently on yours that you may in truth say that it is no longer you who live but Jesus Christ who lives in you (22.2). And, reflecting on the mission he writes, This is what your zeal must inspire in your disciples, as if God were appealing through you, because you are ambassadors for Jesus Christ” (201.2). 

Are you seeing a golden thread here? At least from where I sit, De La Salle is pointing to the indwelling of Christ in our word and work. Christ in the young, Christ in the body, Christ in the heart, Christ in the mission. 

De La Salle composed 200-plus meditations, so I am being highly selective, but I believe they are authentic packing guides for what is essential in our daily mission. Staying alert and attentive to the presence of Christ in our encounters is essential. In the concrete, the here and now, the peaks and valleys—the Risen Jesus is present, in our hearts and most especially in the hearts of those God has entrusted to us. 

Photo courtesy La Salle Academy, Providence, RI

From the General Councilor’s Reflection Page
By Brother Timothy Coldwell, FSC 

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