4th Week of Ordinary Time (7th February, 2019)
First Reading: Heb 12:18-19,21-24
Gospel: Mk 6:7-13
Today’s gospel bears many instructions Jesus gives to his disciples as they set themselves on missionary journey to preach repentance. Most of these instructions we see are prohibitory nature. One among these commands is “to shake the dust off their feet when the people of the houses they wound enter would not welcome them or listen to them. It would really on the first look appear strange how Jesus could be so harsh on people or instruct the disciples to be so vehement to the extent of shaking off the dust from their sandals if people do not welcome them and so on. One would wonder if Jesus would have given such command at all. Or if he had given at all, what would be the implication of such message?
Actually, shaking the dust off the feet literally meant washing one’s hands off the responsibilities. However, it has got some symbolic mean too i.e. one has done all that can be done in a situation and nothing more can be done in those situations and therefore no more responsibility can be laid upon that person. When Jesus sends his disciples to preach repentance, Jesus asks not to be disturbed about the needs, wants or comforts, he wants them to preach it with full dedication, vigour, and enthusiasm without being bothered or disturbed about the needs, wants or comforts. He wants them to preach it whether they are happy to receive His message or passive about it. Their duty is fulfilled when they preach irrespective of passive reception. But they would have the freedom to come away from the place of preaching if there is any indication of rejection of His message from their part. In other words, when they are received with joy, they would continue to stay and preach. But where their message was rejected, they had no further responsibility. In such situation, they would have the freedom to walk away from their presence as they had done all that they could do. When such implication is from their part, there is another implication on the part of the adamant listeners. In other words, their adamancy in rejecting the goodness can come in no way as hindrance to the spread of the gospel. The people from whom the disciples shake off the dust would indicate that it is they themselves who have rejected God and are given to eternal damnation. This saying is not only mentioned in the gospel but this sense is repeated in the Pauline missionary tour too on his journey to Iconium. It says, “So they shook the dust off their feet as a way to them and they went to Iconium” (AA 13:51). We see it mentioned in the book of Jeremiah too.
For us it is a lesson that we who have been called to these responsibilities to be obedient to God in preaching the good news. We are not responsible for the result of obedience. We are called to proclaim His good news to all. We shall not be discouraged because of the poor reception of God’s message in their lives. Amen.