Today we listen to the gospel that describes the sending or the mission of Jesus’ 12 apostles. In starting them off, the Lord gave them instructions and advice. Jesus apostles would be known for their utter dependence on Providence, for their astounding power, and for their compassion for the sick and suffering.

There is an intriguing piece of advice the Lord gives: “Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.” This seems to prepare the apostles for the event of rejection, unbelief and persecution.

However, it seems that none of the apostles actually followed this advice, and not because they defied their Lord. In his own ministry, Jesus did not shrink from his dedication to his own mission. He resolutely went to the places he needed to save. And when he had to leave, he did not dramatically shake the dust from his sandals. Jesus was the apostles’ model of total self-offering, extending forgiveness to the stubborn and understanding to the unready.

Thus, we see Jesus apostles and the people who succeeded them courageously accept the pain of rejection and even outright persecution without conveniently leaving behind the people they decided to serve. Many Christians through the centuries accepted martyrdom and refused to reciprocate the ill-will of their enemies as they continued to love them.

This heroic pattern that goes back to Jesus and his disciples can still be seen in the lives of committed Christians today, albeit in different contexts and situations. A man refuses to abandon his wife after she became immobile from serious sickness. A young man forsakes his own dreams in order to provide a better future for his siblings. A girl willingly loses part of her own childhood by helping her working single mom take care of his little brother and by maintaining the house. These too, did not shake the dust of their sandals but instead faced head on the challenges of life.

Face-to-face with difficulty, we have the option to pack our things and go. And Jesus says it is alright to do this at times. But like the Lord, may we instead choose to stay and persevere in sharing God’s love to the world.