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July, 15 2018

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

Deacon Dave Shea, DMin

Amos 7:12-15 Eph 1:3-14 Mark 6:7-13

 

Amos was hardly suitable for the job. In his own words, he was not a prophet—“I am nothing more than a poor shepherd and an arborist.” It was his way of bellyaching to God—“Who me? You must be kidding! I’m the last guy in the world to be your prophet.” But a prophet he becomes. And God commissions him to tell a drunken, jeering, and hooting crowd that their carefree optimism and way of life is built on a rotten foundation—“God tells me that this place must be destroyed. I can stand you no more.” Not exactly a choice of words that would make you friends with strangers.

 The time had finally come when the Twelve would go out on their own. He had taught them well and in him they had the best teacher. He had not only told them what to do, but showed them how to do it. But there comes a time when the teacher and his students must part company, and that time was now. Like Amos, the Twelve have been called from their everyday lives to a task they weren’t very sure about—to speak God's Word. And Jesus gave them some very explicit marching orders. “Take no bread, bag, or money. Take your sandals, one tunic, and a stick.” This was stripped-down travel at its best; these Twelve traveled light. And Jesus also told them how to behave—they were to accept voluntary poverty, they were to be homeless and take the hospitality that is offered no matter how poor and inadequate it might be, and they could not benefit in any way from their ministry to others. And they must not be afraid to name evil wherever they see it and challenge evildoers to change their hearts and their behavior. Make no mistakes about it, they weren’t going to be popular; this missionary work was tough and risky business. And once on their way, Jesus must have worried about them day and night, just like an anxious parent.

 There comes a time in every parent’s life when they have to send their children out on their own. And few things can be more painful. For years we do our best to teach them all that they’ll need to make it on their own—what to avoid, how to choose friends, how to make moral decisions, and how to handle some of the worst that life can throw at them. And as much as we’d like to hang onto them and keep them safe and continue to solve all their problems, there comes a time when parents and child must part company.

 I remember the day we brought our daughter to college. We unloaded the over-packed car, my wife took her to the Student Union to buy books, we had lunch together, and finally, we had to say good bye—we had postponed it for as long as we could. We hugged and kissed, drove away from her dormitory, and never looked back over our shoulders. As we drove the 60 miles from Purdue to Indianapolis, not a single word was spoken. My wife later told me that she just couldn’t speak—she was afraid to start sobbing and not be able to stop.

 Many of our youth have traveled to Nicaragua to visit our twinning parish in Batahola. They were blessed and commissioned at this Mass and sent on their way. They, like Amos and the Twelve, received their marching orders. They had studied, prayed, raised money, and told what to bring and what to leave—take only one suitcase, leave your credit cards at home, and don’t drink the water. Then came the time when they had to leave family and home behind and travel to a foreign country to accept the hospitality offered to them, to live among the poor, to eat and worship with strangers, and share in the ministry of Christ.

  It would be so easy if God called only a handful of us; a precious and qualified few who set aside their lives for ministry so that the rest of us could go on with our lives and our professions in the comfort that God’s work was being taken care of without us having to make sacrifices. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if we could just come to church on Sundays, make good on our stewardship commitments, participate in certain parish programs, and stay focused on the business of life? If only that’s the way it was—but it’s not. Today we’re told that we are the ones who are to continue Christ’s ministry in our time. Today we’re told that if the world is to be rescued it has to happen through us. It’s God’s plan. 

It shouldn't surprise us that Christ calls each of us—that not one of us is exempted from his ministry; that we are all supposed to be prophets.  Oh we could try and make the argument that we don’t meet the qualifications for the job, but we wouldn’t get very far. Consider Amos’ credentials. He never attended a training program on how to be a prophet. He was a tree doctor. And the Twelve, well they were certainly inexperienced as far as missionaries go. Most of them were fishermen and not a one of them was distinctive according to the standards of the world, and they certainly weren’t celebrities. Yet Amos called for a complete change in the social structure of his people and the Twelve set out to convert the entire world. They all had faith. They all believed in what they were doing. And they trusted that God would take care of them.

 God chooses the ordinary people and gives them an extraordinary responsibility. The mechanics, the teachers, the nurses, the accountants, the lawyers, the machinists, the pilots, the homemakers, engineers and doctors. Look around you! To everyone of us God says, “Go prophesy!” We may not feel qualified, we may not have political or financial clout, and we may not have the right training for the job. The choice of being a prophet is not ours.  God makes the choice, and, if we accept, He’ll give us what we need. "Go prophesy.... Go prophesy to my people in your neighborhoods, in your workplaces, in Cincinnati, in the United States, and in Bathola."  Who will preach the Gospel? Who will bring Christ’s healing to others?  Who will confront evil . . . if not you?

 

Resources Used:

Bergant, Dianne with Richard Fragomeni. Preaching the New Lectionary, Year B

 Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1999.

 Malina, Bruce J. and Richard L. Rohrbaugh. Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic

 Gospels, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992.

 Rutledge, Fleming. The Bible and The New York Times Grand Rapids: William B.

Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998.

 Thurston, Bonnie Bowman. Preaching Mark Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002.

 First Impressions, http://judeop.ispraleigh.com

 www.preparetheword.com

 ©David J. Shea 

 

 

 

 

 


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