Companions needed on the journey

A parish I know is home to several support groups. Anna facilitated one that had been set up for unemployed workers. Every Tuesday afternoon, she and several other people gathered to share stories and to encourage one another in their job search. Anna herself had been out of work for almost three years and she was quick to admit that had it not been for the support of a group similar to this one she might still be reading want ads. “Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two.”

Ted is a stockbroker and one of a group of businesspeople who meet every Thursday morning at a local restaurant to discuss their work in light of the moral imperative of the Gospels. The group also includes a couple of lawyers, an accountant, an architect and a structural engineer. Bound by the promise of confidentiality they share their stories and support one another in choosing to act ethically, even when doing so could cost them their jobs. “Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two.”

In the early part of the last century inhumane working conditions and unfair labor practices inspired workers to organize into unions so that their voices might be heard. Because of those unions, workers today are able to demand a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work and working conditions that are clean and safe, things they could not have accomplished on their own.

“Jesus summoned the Twelve and sent them out two by two” because he knew that they would need companions far more than they would need sandals or walking sticks. Anna found work because others supported her in her search. Ted’s colleagues continue to support one another in their efforts to work ethically. Mine workers’ lives are saved because of that safety equipment unions negotiated for and won on their behalf. Jesus continues to send us out two by two. What stories do we share? Where do we find welcome? With whom do we walk?

Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister in the diocese.