In the Gospel Reading, before his ascension, Christ gives a last command: go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel. And he adds a list of things that will characterize believers who obey this command: they will drive out demons, speak new languages, handle snakes safely, drink deadly things without harm, and heal the sick by the laying on of hands.
Why this list? Isn’t it supposed to be just love that characterizes believers?
Think of it this way.
When one of my children was traveling to Bangladesh, I made a list of dos and don’ts for him. It was a list intended to help keep him safe.
Getting him housed with English speakers was on the list. “Don’t drink the water!” was definitely on the list, and so was steering clear of people who were obviously sick. The list finished with this prohibition: “whatever you do, don’t come into contact with the ground!” I know it sounds ridiculous; but hookworm is endemic in that part of the world, and you can get full of worms if a body part with an open wound comes into contact with infected ground.
You can see that the things I was worrying about on my list included those things that were on Christ’s list as not to be worried about: language problems, deadly drinks, sicknesses, even snakes – well, hookworms, anyway. (Demons weren’t on my list, of course, but maybe they would have been if I could have thought of anything to do about them.)
So the things on Christ’s list are the things that you (or your mother) might worry about if you were traveling in dangerous places. Since Christ is commanding people to head out to all the world, maybe it is only fair of him to tell those who obey him that they don’t need to worry about any of these things. Like a good mother, Christ has already thought about all these things for his traveling people, and he has taken care of them.
And so here is one way to understand Christ’s list of things characterizing those who believe and obey him. Whatever roads the journey of their lives takes them on, the care of the Lord encompasses those who travel in his service.