The mission of the disciples is spoken of by Jesus in terms that, while they could certainly be taken literally, require a symbolic interpretation. The disciples are to go simply on their mission, not taking anything luxurious or extravagant, not bearing in their hearts any preoccupation for the mundane or worldly. They shouldn’t “wear two coats at the same time,” which St. Augustine understands to mean leading a double life. The temptation to put on airs, to cover ourselves on the outside with the right words and actions – while inside we are wearing a different coat – is a temptation to lack trust. Looking like a saint is not the same as being a saint. There are the saints who will be canonized as examples for the faithful of what God’s grace can do in the hearts and lives of those who cling to Him in faith, hope, and love. There are also the saints whose lives look like a mess, will never be canonized, but trusted fully in God’s power working through their weakness and will live with Him forever in Heaven. Refusing duplicity means that my life will become Good News because of the Grace of God – because it will never become so because of me. Humbly accepting weakness and seeking to respond to God’s mercy – because it is Love – will transform us in ways we could never accomplish on our own. May we long for the simplicity that allows us to become saints the way God wants, and not according to our own ideals or aspirations. May the Word of God become our companion and guide on the paths we must tread with Him alone.
ISHO’DAD OF MERV:
“I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son.” That is, I have not learned this profession as a trade nor have I inherited it from my fathers, but it is the work of divine grace that is given to those who seek after God.1
Are all commanded not to have two coats, nor food in their possession, money in their purse, only a staff in the hand and shoes on the feet? Are all commanded to sell all they possess and give it to the poor, and follow Jesus? Of course not. This command is for those who earnestly desire to respond fully to grace.… The Lord says in the Gospel to him who had boasted of having kept the whole law: “If you will be perfect, go and sell all that you have, and give to the poor, and come, follow me.” He said this to those who wish to be wholly mature in faith, that he might not seem to be laying a heavy burden on unwilling shoulders.2
To wish for nothing more than need demands
Is rest supreme, with simple food and dress
To feed and clothe our bodies and to seek
No more than is prescribed by nature’s wants.
When going on a journey, take no purse,
Nor of a second tunic think, and be
Not anxious for the morrow, lest for food
The belly lack. Our daily bread returns
With every sun. Does any bird take thought
Of tomorrow, certain to be fed by God?3
What is forbidden is neither the carrying nor the possessing of two coats, but more distinctly the wearing of two coats at the same time. The words say: “and not put on two coats.” What counsel is conveyed to them by this? They ought to walk not in duplicity, but in simplicity.4
- COMMENTARY ON AMOS. Ferreiro, A. (2003). Introduction to the Twelve Prophets. In A. Ferreiro (Ed.), The Twelve Prophets (p. 110). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- AGAINST JOVINIANUS 2. Oden, T. C., & Hall, C. A. (Eds.). (1998). Mark (Revised) (p. 77). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- THE SPIRITUAL COMBAT. Oden, T. C., & Hall, C. A. (Eds.). (1998). Mark (Revised) (p. 77). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- HARMONY OF THE GOSPELS 2.30.75. Oden, T. C., & Hall, C. A. (Eds.). (1998). Mark (Revised) (p. 77). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.