Pastor Column, 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time: July 7, 2019
Msgr. Joseph Tracy, St. Stanislaus Parish
As we move away from 4th of July celebrations and towards the month of August, the summer vacation season is in full swing. Whether they are day trips, week-long, or perhaps multi-week excursions outside Lansdale, plans are set or almost finalized. We are “outta here!” Vacationers can fall into two distinct categories: traveler or tourist. This year, for each of us, the question becomes: will we be a traveler… or a tourist?
There are distinct differences between the two. For centuries, travelers were those who were interested in unfamiliar settings and exotic encounters that enlarged their perspective. Travelers are active – they seek interaction with people, they live for adventure, and intentionally seek out new experiences.
On the other hand, tourism is often a spectator sport, substantially full of contrived, made-to-order experiences. A tourist is passive. He or she expects interesting things to happen to him/her. Tourists go sightseeing. Not that there is anything bad in that. Sometimes you just want to “jump in” to something pre-planned and settle for everything in it that is touristy. Hopefully that is only for the occasional trip over our lifetime of excursions.
The word travel comes from the same root as the word travail, meaning trouble, work, sometimes even torment. The traveler takes risks, plunges into diverse cultures, and wants to learn local customs and ways of doing things. Bring on those unplanned experiences! The traveler is ready to get involved. They eat whatever food is placed before them, they learn the language, and do not even go near any souvenir counters.
Travail and sacrifice are not part of the tourist itinerary. Even the word tour comes from the Latin root meaning to circle about. Tourists are pleasure seekers who prefer the “known” over the “unknown.” They will pass on exotic experiences for the comfort of a fresh bed at night, or an after-dinner cocktail. The local vibe of noise, smells, and native persons is a thing of the past once he/she is back home unpacking photos and memorabilia.
Today’s Scripture readings – particularly the Gospel – cause us, as we prepare for summer vacation season, to consider an important notion. Are you an engaged traveler or a passing tourist on this journey of life that God has set you on?
Jesus sent seventy-two of His disciples two-by-two not just to do a little recognizance, but to bring to those places He would visit His peace, healing and reconciliation. They were ambassadors for Jesus to those they encountered. That same work entrusted to them has now been passed on to you and me, members of Christ’s Church in 2019. This is no pleasure cruise or comfortable river tour. The work Jesus gives to us we received at baptism. It begins and ends at the Eucharistic table of the Lord that we gather around on Sundays. Here we become engaged with one another as a means of support, reconciliation and peace. I imagine that the seventy-two sent by Jesus probably viewed their journeys as a privilege. Jesus hand selected us as well. Like us they were sent out to proclaim Good News to those who needed to hear it. Surely for many of them it was dangerous business, but they did it gladly nevertheless. They recognized, as we must, that they were builders, not the architect, of something they believed in and wanted to share with the world. So, fellow travelers, get those building tools and materials together, and go out into exotic and unfamiliar territory and start constructing. The plan is God’s, the work is Christ’s, and you and I are the ministers.