I find it interesting that over this holiday weekend in which we celebrate our independence, we hear from Jesus a reminder about the importance of working and being together. We live in a society in which individualism is lifted up and encouraged. If we seem to need other people, seem to depend on others, we come across as weak and vulnerable, attributes that are not looked upon favorably in today's culture. But wanting to stand out as an individual and do everything on our own is one of our greatest weaknesses.
The independence we celebrate, the individualism we lift up, is not as independent as it seems. The pilgrims who first settled in this land we call America deeply depended upon one another for survival. They established colonies -- the first towns, really -- in order to live close to each other. They called these places "commonwealths," in other words, places where one person's gifts were used for the common good of all.
Jesus sent out his disciples, not alone as individuals, but in pairs. And not only that, but the disciples were to trust entirely in the hospitality of those they met on their way. I think Jesus set it up in this way because contrary to popular belief, depending upon others is our natural state. We are stronger and better and more efficient when we work together and use one another's gifts for the good of all. We were meant to be together, to live life together, to worship God and serve neighbor together.
As you celebrate independence this weekend, whether it be the independence of our country or your own personal independence as an individual, keep in mind that God wants us to be in relationship with one another, and to lift up one another's unique gifts and talents. Because it is when we work together that we can worship God and serve others as best as we possibly can.
Let these words from St Teresa of Avila serve as our prayer:
Christ has no body on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ looks out to the world.
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good.
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless others now.