15th Sunday Ordinary Time B

Q380: Why is the Prophet Amos being chased out of Bethel (First Reading, Amos 7:12-15)? The text today is silent about that.

Last week I talked about people who were “uncomfortable” in situations where they could control neither events nor the outcome. Today there is a different kind of “discomfort” – but this kind comes from being “disturbed” by hearing the word of God. Perhaps a better way of viewing those times when we feel “uncomfortable” hearing a reading or a homily, is to recognize that we are “being challenged” to become more responsible and just in all of our relationships.

Amos was an ordinary lay person from Judah (southern kingdom) who was called by God to speak His word in Samaria (northern kingdom). Prophecy was not the normal “career path” for Amos, who worked in the vineyards and pastures. His message to Northern Israel was simple: the leaders and merchants were engaging in acts of gross injustice. This included cheating customers in the marketplace; being disdainful or inhospitable to strangers (especially females); and above all, disregarding the needs of the poor.

The response of the Priest at Bethel in the north was to reject Amos as an “outsider” – after all, he wasn’t even a citizen of the northern kingdom. Therefore his word was rejected, just as the “migrant” himself was rejected. In the Gospel today (Mk 6:7-13) Jesus warned the missionaries that they, too, would be rejected on many occasions. To reject the message and the messenger is to reject God Himself. Nevertheless, the duty of every disciple is to “challenge the comfortable” with the Truth. We need these reminders of the centrality of justice,charity and dignity for all humankind, otherwise we inadvertently build walls of exclusion. God’s love knows no boundaries; neither must our love.

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Evangelization (spreading the Good News of God’s love for all) is not an option; it is an ordinary responsibility for each one of us (CCC #905). Justice is the keystone in all of our relationships (CCC #2411), because it is a basic right belonging to both man and God (CCC #1807).

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Q536: Is everyone being called to leave home and become missionaries, like the first disciples?

Three things are at work today in these readings: dependence on God, dependence on those we minister to, and dependence on our fellow workers. Despite opposition, the mission continues.

Amos was from the south in Judah, and was sent to the north by God to preach against the economic injustice and idolatry that was prevalent in the northern kingdom of Israel (Amos 7:12-15). He was not a prophet nor a preacher, and yet was sent alone to minister in God’s name. Therefore he had to depend entirely on the providence of God and those who were open to his message of repentance. It appears he may have gathered some followers, who collected his oracles and messages (as we have them in the bible), and provided support for his preaching efforts.

The disciples of Jesus were sent out in pairs, to preach repentance and restore wholeness to the sick and possessed (Mark 6:7-13). They were to go without possessions, depending entirely on the providence of God and those to whom they ministered. Being in pairs, they were also able to support each other and help each other keep focused on their mission. They were not to waste time on those who rejected them and their message.

Each one of us, by virtue of our baptism and confirmation, also has a disciple’s responsibility to continue to spread the Good News about God’s mercy, and call others to repentance. We support each other in this effort, particularly where a husband-wife relationship exists as they minister to their family, neighbors and co-workers. The key is dependence, prayer support, and perseverance, as well as recognizing and accepting rejection.

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Those with a vocation to the religious life deserve the support of those to whom they minister (1 Tim 5:18). The latter have the duty and obligation to provide for the needs of the Church within their abilities (CCC #2043, 2122).

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We Are Chosen

The opening of the Letter to the Ephesians reminds us of the mystery hidden in the depths of our life and personality. We have been chosen by God “before the world began.” God does not choose a featureless mass of people; in the words of Jesus, the Good Shepherd knows each sheep by name. There are all kinds of implications in this plan to be carried out in the fullness of time. Today’s readings focus on our call and vocation in life. Amos did not choose to become a professional prophet but God called him so he must speak God’s message. The Twelve were chosen and sent out two by two carry out Jesus’ ministry of preaching, driving out demons, and curing the sick. The austere conditions of their ministry (taking nothing with them for the journey) show that the success of their work is from God’s power not any human power. St. Paul tells us that we too have been chosen. We do not always know what God has in mind for us and we cannot control it; we must react with obedient faith.. God chose us to live the plan decreed in Christ to bring all things in heaven and earth together as one under Christ’s headship. In carrying out this vocation we have to trust in God’s providence.

Lord, we have different ways of committing ourselves for your work. Send out your Spirit to support us, to guide us and lead us to where you want us to go and we shall have true success.

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