For a couple of weeks now I have been leading a weekly discussion group on Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation “Rejoice and Be Glad”. In this exhortation, the Holy Father is encouraging every member of the Church to recognize and embrace his or her own unique call to holiness. The exhortation is a wonderful document and, I believe, it shows forth Pope Francis’ training as a retreat director steeped in the Ignatian practice of discernment.
I wish to share one insight worthy of reflection (there are many) that the pope shares in the course of this document. He writes,
“Let us not forget that Jesus asked his disciples to pay attention to details.
The little detail that wine was running out at a party.
The little detail that one sheep was missing.
The little detail of noticing the widow who offered her two small coins.
The little detail of having spare oil for the lamps, should the bridegroom delay.
The little detail of asking the disciples how many loaves of bread they had.
The little detail of having a fire burning and fish cooking as he waited for the disciples at daybreak.
A community that cherishes the little details of love, whose members care for one another and create an open and evangelizing environment, is a place where the risen Lord is present, sanctifying it in accordance with the Father’s plan.”
In today’s gospel (Mk. 6:7-13), our Lord sends his disciples out on mission and he gives them instructions on what to take and what not to take and he tells them how they are to act when they arrive at a certain place. With the insight of Pope Francis, I believe it is safe to say that our Lord also expected his disciples to pay attention to details as they went forth on their mission. They were to see the ones that society chose not to see – the poor, the sick, the elderly, the refugee and the migrant. They were to notice the small acts of faith and devotion offered by people every day that humanize life and make it beautiful. They were to be attentive to the small mustard seed moments of possibility to serve another person and to share the good news. “Let us not forget that Jesus asked his disciples to pay attention to details.”
We must also allow ourselves to be trained by our Lord in this attention to detail – both individually and as a community. It is part of what it means to be a disciple of Christ. The disciple of Christ is one who has learned to value the details in the lives of people and in daily moments. And this learning comes straight from the Master himself and is taught throughout the gospels.
The disciple of Christ cannot write any person or any group of people off in generalities because Christ never did. Christ truly encountered every person he came in contact with – whether that be Roman soldier, public sinner, religious authority, simple fisherman or tax collector. Jesus encountered them all.
The disciple of Christ must be attentive to the possibility of every moment because Jesus himself was. Whether tired, as our Lord was as he sat by the well when the Samaritan woman came to draw water or pressed on all sides as he journeyed to the house of Jairus when the woman reached out and touched his cloak – every moment carries with it the possibility of the Kingdom of God.
The disciple of Christ must be concerned not just with who is present in community but also with who is not present and therefore must be willing to “go out” of what is known and what is comfortable and seek out the one who is lost and who is hurting and welcome that one – whether the action is understood by others or not.
The disciple of Christ must be attentive to the things that bring healing and wholeness to hearts that are wounded and broken and must learn the discipline of putting aside those things that block the possibility of healing.
The disciple of Christ must learn to be attentive just as Christ was attentive.
Here is a quote by Fred Rogers (aka “Mr. Rogers”) who, himself was a minister and disciple of Christ, “I believe that appreciation is a holy thing – that when we look for what’s best in a person we happen to be with at the moment, we’re doing what God does all the time. So in loving and appreciating our neighbor we’re participating in something sacred.”
“Let us not forget that Jesus asked his disciples to pay attention to details.”