A Journey Best Traveled with Company – Br. Sean Glenn

Br. Sean Glenn

Hebrews 12:18-24
Mark 6:7-13 

When I was a student, one phrase always sent my spirit sinking, “group work.” Invariably I would be assigned a partner or two who, to my mind, were only there to drag me down or distract my self-esteem by their more finely formed intelligence and work ethic. “Couldn’t we just do these assignments on our own?” I would ask myself. I wanted to be in sole control over anything I had to surrender for the teacher’s scrutiny. So focused was I on the state of my own GPA that I dreaded the idea of having to compete with, or worse still, depend on another. “Surely,” I thought, “real lifewill be a test not of our cooperation but of our self-reliance.” 

I think it is safe to say that we live in a culture that suffers, to varying degrees, from this pivotal misunderstanding. While cooperation and mutuality are concepts routinely praised from the political podium, in classrooms, and in many an ideological platform, at the end of the day, we still notice something unsettling: individualism and individual choice, the right to be an island, and the desire for private ownership still guide so much of the world around us as goods in themselves. It is clear that we know we should temper these behaviors, but we still manage to miss the mark. We seem to be uncomfortable working beyond our own, or our community’s, assumptions. We want to be in control.

“Surely real lifewill be a test not of our cooperation but of our self-reliance.”

There is a lesson for us and for our culture in this morning’s gospel, and it requires us to train ourselves to let go of the control we think we have. It asks us to admit we need one another.

He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony to them.”[1]

This model of mission makes no accommodation for self-reliance. No bread, no bag, no money, no spare clothing; stay not where you might expect to find better accommodation, but where you are received; resist violent retribution when your ego is bruised; and it begins by being sent out not alone, but with a partner—a fellow student of love. I cannot imagine that each of these disciples got along well with their partners at every moment. We may imagine some were strangers. Jesus gave them to each other for nourishment, and each would have to learn to depend upon and trust the other in order to do the work given them. They would have to learn to see their Lord in each other as they walked the road to do Jesus’ work of love. 

To enter the road and walk with Jesus is to admit, freely and without shame, our deep need for relationship and cooperation even amid our tendency to resist the call to relate. A call, which God speaks to us by the direct gift and encounter of our neighbor. “The road which leads to [our] fulfillment,” writes Christopher Bryant, “is one that brings [us] to an ever-closer oneness with God, [our] author. But God’s presence, unseen and unknown, is with [us] from the beginning.”[2]And is with us most discernably, I will add, not when we are left to ponder the mystery on our own, but when we come face to face with it in another. The “sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel,”[3]which cried out for vengeance, is the blood of Jesus, which freely shed and shared, brings access to God here, in you and in your neighbor. 

Surely real life is a journey, not a test; and it is a journey best traveled with company.

[1]Mark 6:13—11 New Revised Standard Version.

[2]Christopher Bryant, The Heart in Pilgrimage: Christian Guides for the Human Journey(New York: Seabury Press, 1980), 4.

[3]Hebrews 12:24b

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  1. SusanMarie on January 21, 2023 at 08:59

    In revisiting this good message, I am reminded of a story that has stayed with me many years after I first heard it. It goes something like this:

    Three seekers desired to live on their own — separately — to become closer to God, but first they needed permission from their leader (abbot?). So they went to him, explained their desire and requested permission. He was quiet for a while and then denied their request, saying “No, my children. What you must do to become closer to God and learn more about your inner souls is to go into the desert together and live as a family. One of you will be the father, one the mother, and one the child. After a time you must switch roles until each has lived in the role of father, mother, and child. In this way you will learn humility, compassion, love, service, obedience, forgiveness, patience, and more. Most of all you will learn who you are in your soul; who you are in God.

  2. Eva on January 19, 2023 at 14:24

    A Music Director once gave me the opportunity to sing a duet. It was supposed to be an easier option than singing a solo – less stressful. The opposite was true. Duets can be wonderfully fulfilling, in ways that solo singing falls short, but it is so much more challenging, especially when there is a lack of trust. And choral singing… in my view, this is the best!

  3. John G. on January 19, 2023 at 11:47

    Solitude can be a place of safety untroubled by difference. I need it to get my individual work done, but it isolates me from others’ fellowship and cooperation. Solitude keeps me in control separated from shared reality. I mean life as it is actually being lived in the world. This separation is a great loss to me. Having to relate to people who are different from me helps me share their lives. Even confrontation can call on me to evaluate my purpose and focus my effort. I do not need to be appalled by difference because it represents someone else’s reality. And that person was created by God for a special purpose just as I was. Oh, if I could only stop shying away from people who are different from me and participate in the rich variety of lives being lived around me!

  4. J. Hishikawa on January 19, 2023 at 10:10

    Saint Paul and Timothy are a good example.

  5. Judy Hunter on January 19, 2023 at 07:39

    Wonderful sermon full of wisdom!! Life’s journey is better and was intended to be shared with others/

  6. Carney Ivy on January 14, 2021 at 08:18

    This is beautiful!!! Thank you! I have shared this with my family, friends and spiritual director. You have spoken so eloquently to the clash of my struggles with who and how I should perform in society and following my faith. It is a tricky balance. Trusting one’s neighbor and being trustworthy also is crucial! Thank you!

  7. SusanMarie on January 14, 2021 at 07:35

    We can all read or hear this message from a new point of view after nearly a year of living with a pandemic. We can work together for and toward the common good, or we can declare our right to independence and “freedom” as individuals. It has been shown clearly that dropping our individualism and working together is the best way, and yet here we are…

  8. Bev Cone on January 14, 2021 at 06:40

    How about in January, 2021? How do we apply this now – being alone to keep the Covid virus from spreading and living a new way of life, people reaching out to each other in the U.S. with anger, fighting for control, instead of working together? Let’s pray for understanding and hope during this difficult time.

  9. Marta Engdahl on January 27, 2020 at 22:28

    Getting along with a partner is not easy, requires self-awareness, insight, patience, and “love”. Thank you for this perceptive reminder of our position in the universe.

  10. larimore on January 27, 2020 at 16:43

    Thank you, Brother Glenn, for this. As I grow older, I realize I am less tolerant of others. I need to keep the awareness of greater compassion….. with God’s help.


  11. James Rowland on January 27, 2020 at 08:57

    Oh yes, Br. Sean, it is more comfortable doing my spiritual “projects” individually eg.meditate in the quiet of my room but for me the real outcome is to do the “group work” of cooperation and love with others— sometimes difficult and frustrating. Thank you for focusing on a real and constant struggle. I will remember the Jesus- aspect in what often seems chaotic. Blessings.

  12. Jeanne DeFazio on January 27, 2020 at 08:45

    Sharing this today:
    The “sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel,”[3]which cried out for vengeance, is the blood of Jesus, which freely shed and shared, brings access to God here, in you and in your neighbor.

    Surely real life is a journey, not a test; and it is a journey best traveled with company.

  13. Chris on January 27, 2020 at 08:20

    Thank you for your insights, and for taking the time to collect them. I am pondering them today as I spend the day alone.

  14. Louis on February 19, 2019 at 04:07

    Truely inspired, was actually in an island of individualism

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