By Kayla Johnson
It is no secret that I LOVE my well-worn pair of Chacos. From the cobbled boulevards of Spain to dusty streets of Peru, my Chacos have walked some of the best adventures with me. What’s more, they are comfortable, go with almost any outfit, and are sporty enough for a plethora of outdoor activities. Oh, and did I mention they leave some of the sickest tan lines on your feet?!?
All that being said, when I strap on my Chacos and go for a walk on the gravel road near my house, my mind wanders to the days of the early disciples. The crunch of the gravel under my feet makes me wonder: what was it like to be a disciple in the early days of the Church? They must have walked a good deal in their own trusty pair of sandals as they spread the Good News throughout the land. Although I am sure they were not as enamored with their choice of footwear as I am mine, I wonder what it was like to walk in their shoes?
Some may consider my sandal ponderings a little extra. After all, the early disciples did some amazing things (like heal the sick, cast out unclean spirits, etc.), why spend time thinking about their shoes? But to me, the thought of the early disciples traversing the earth in sandals reminds me of their humaneness and the reality of the Church’s mission. These were everyday people who lived the joy of the Gospel despite the challenges of their time. When Jesus gave his Great Commission, he didn’t make it unattainable for the average person. Rather, he made the mission fairly straightforward when he said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
So why do I feel the need to complicate matters? It is so easy to say things like: “I can only follow Jesus when I have enough time in my schedule”, or “I can only live out his mission when my prayer life is flawless”, or “I don’t have a theology degree so I’m not able to share my faith with others.” The list goes on and on. Yet, the reality is there is never going to be a “perfect” time to live as a disciple of Christ. The world we live in is broken, messy, and complex, but as Catholics that doesn’t make our mission complicated.
Look at what a few of Jesus’s closest friends accomplished when they fastened their sandals and set out to live a life of mission guided by the Holy Spirit. For real, look! Pick up your bible and read the New Testament. The Acts of the Apostles is a great place to start. As you will see, their lives were not easy, but with faith they worked wonders.
My challenge for you is to live like the early disciples. Fasten your sandals and live a life of mission. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are some practical places to start:
- Start at home. This can be challenging, but is it also important. What is one way you can show love to the people you live with this week?
- Educate yourself. While it is true you don’t have to be a genius to share your faith, it is also true that the apostles spent a great deal of time with Jesus. Do you? Are you spending time in prayer? Are you getting to know Jesus and the lessons he shared?
- Practice and Prepare. We are all human and not perfect. Even the early disciples had their faults. There will be times when you make mistakes. Prepare for those times. What are you going to do to get your sandals back on your feet?
I am going to leave you with this passage from Pope Francis’s Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel):
All the baptized whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization, and it would be insufficient to envisage a plan of evangelization to be carried out by professionals while the rest of the faithful would simply be passive recipients. The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged, here and now to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love. Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are “disciples” and “missionaries,” but rather that we are always “missionary disciples.” If we are not convinced, let us look at those first disciples, who, immediately after encountering the gaze of Jesus, went forth to proclaim him joyfully: “ We have found the Messiah!” (Jn 1:41). The Samaritan woman became a missionary immediately after speaking with Jesus and many Samaritans came to believe in him “because of the woman’s testimony” (Jn 4:39). So too, St. Paul after his encounter with Jesus Christ, “immediately proclaimed Jesus” (Acts 9:20; cf. 22:6-21). So what are we waiting for?
P.S. My brother got married this summer. Check out the footwear!