In yet another war of ethnic cleansing, a young mother was murdered, leaving behind only her husband and their little boy. The man traveled far and wide, looking for work while his little son stayed with friends. After a long absence, the father came home only to find his village destroyed and all his friends gone.
He searched the rubble and found some small bones, surely the remains of his little son. So he wrapped them carefully in a cloth and carried them with him everywhere he went.
Year’s passed, and one night the old man heard a knock at his door. “Who’s there?” he called out. “It’s me, your son!” came the reply. “I was kidnapped and escaped, and I’ve spent years searching for you.” “You vicious imposter!” yelled the old man. “My son is dead. Leave me alone!” And he refused to open the door. The pounding continued for a long time, but finally it stopped and the son – for that is who it was – went away. The old man wept – as he did every night – hugging his bag of dry old bones.
And all he had to do, my friends, was to put down the bag and open the door! My brothers and sisters, Jesus is talking to us about this very thing in our Gospel today. As he sends out his disciples to share the Good News, he gives them crucial advice: Travel light. Let go of whatever can steal life away from you.
That’s good advice! So what can steal life from us? The “stuff” that we accumulate in life can so often be a thief that seizes power over us and cuts us off from real life. I believe that deep down inside we all know that. Far more insidious are the thieves that lurk inside our heads and hearts – whole gangs of them: Paralyzing fears that freeze us in place; old hates and grievances that we cling to as if they were treasures; dead, shrunken ideas that blind us to the richness of life; stupid ways of responding to life that are as mindless as the two-year-old’s habit of saying “no!”, no matter what the question; poisonous relationships that we cling to despite all that common sense tells us.
Some of those thieves – or their relatives – are lurking in the heads and hearts of us all, and they’re robbing us of life, every bit as much as that old man’s clinging to his bag of dry bones robbed him of life and kept him a slave to an ancient sorrow.
My sisters and brothers, Jesus came to set us free. And he’ll do that, if only we let go of whatever is robbing us of life – let go of our own little bag of dry bones and open the door. Letting go begins with naming the thieves in our life, and then deciding we don’t need them anymore, because the Lord is walking with us, and he’s all that we need in life.
God wants us to be free. But only we can do the letting go of the fears, the hates, the sorrows, the sick friendships, the overdose of “things”, or the habitual “no’s” in our lives. Only we can do the letting go. So my friends, let us pray for the courage to open our clinched fists that can so easily hang on to the false securities in life and open them before the Lord and be free in his love.