The gospel imperative to “travel light” takes on a different meaning as we enter into the summer season. Traveling light may evoke images of summer weekends at the lake or week-long vacations at the sea shore or maybe a short day-trip to the amusement park.
Viewed in this way traveling light makes good sense. Our destination is our goal and whatever steers us away from it may just as well be left behind. Family members know this. Many of us can remember a family quarrel over trunk space. Does Dad really need to bring his golf clubs? Does Mom have to pack an extra shoe bag? And by the way, why the 30-day supply of pop, sandwiches, and cookies?
The question, however, goes well beyond the life of the family. As a society, all of us are learning more and more about the need to travel light. These days, more and more discussion is given to our relationship to the environment. How much oil should we drill? How much coal should we mine? How much energy should we consume?
To be sure, these are not easy questions but they point not only to the limitations of the resources available to us but also to our responsibility to care for them wisely. In an important way, these issues speak to the question of how our society as a whole can find different ways to travel a little (or a lot) more lightly.
In the examples just mentioned traveling light relates to the outer world— the world of nature--and all the cars, clothes, and other goods that find their source in the natural world. But equally so our journey to God connects us to our inner world, the world of our joys and sorrows, our longings and hungers.
From this point of view we see that the gospel imperative to travel light challenges us to see these inner movements in the light of the gospel message. St. Augustine’s dictum is instructive: “For you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Augustine—and all holy men and women—have learned to travel light. They look at all of our longings within and find that apart from God they eventually come to naught.
When it comes to the love of God ---whether it is received or freely given—there are clearly no substitutes. Our possessions and prizes, our awards and accolades, can in reality weigh us down when they are acquired and used apart from the love of God.
It seems that despite the season, the Advent season never completely leaves us. Our call to do more with less is part and parcel of the gospel call to travel light. Jesus’ tells his disciples, “Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals” on their missionary visits. Today we might well adapt his words. “Take no cell phone, no television, no Xbox, no iPad.”
If this sounds even a little unnerving then we’re learning something about the difference between the essential and the nonessential between distraction and discipleship, between God’s kingdom and our own.
© Rev. Tom Mannebach