15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 12, 2015 – Year B
Readings: Am 7:12-15 / Psalm 85 / Eph 1:3-14 / Mk 6:7-13
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon
Once upon a time, there was a doctor. One day, a patient walked into his office and said, “Doctor, I think I’m dying,” and the doctor said, “Well, what seems to be the problem?” The patient said, “I get this terrible pain whenever I touch my head.” The doctor said, “OK, what else?” He said, “I get that same terrible pain whenever I touch my chest.” The doctor said, “Is there anything else?” The patient said, “That same terrible pain, I experience it whenever I touch my stomach. Doctor, what in the world could be wrong with me? Am I dying?” The doctor said, “No, you have a broken finger.”
When we hear the word “prophet” nowadays, we often have a tendency to think about someone who predicts the future, but in the Bible that is not exactly what is meant by the term “prophet.” Certainly, prophets often correctly anticipate what is going to happen, but like the doctor, analyzing his patient, was not relying on years of experience in medical school, prophets in the Bible – as a general rule – are predicting what is logically going to happen if things stay the same. Just like the doctor predicted – and was correct – that the pain was caused by a broken finger. A key to every prophet in the Bible is that their message is a call to turn back to God and to amend something that is wrong.
Take Amos, for instance, in the first readings. Amos was just a shepherd and a farmer, and he was living in the southern kingdom of Judah. The great kingdom of Israel that was built up by David and Solomon was split in two after the death of Solomon. There was the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. Jerusalem was in Judah. Amos lived as a humble farmer not far from Jerusalem. But he was called by God to travel all the way to the north to point out what was logically going to happen to the kingdom of Israel if they did not amend their ways. Israel had become extremely prosperous. They were enjoying plenty.
But, as typically happens, their focus turned away from God and turned more toward themselves. They were neglecting the poor. They were taking advantage of the weak.
They were ignoring God’s law because they felt they were doing fine on their own. However, within a couple of generations, due to their complacency, they were attacked by the Assyrians and were unable to defend themselves. The entire population of the kingdom of Israel was taken away in exile and never returned.
Also, as is typical with a prophet, the audience of Amos was not too keen on what he had to say and they eventually kicked him out of the country and sent him back south.
So what does that have to do with us? Well, because of our baptism and our confirmation, each of us is called to some degree to act at times as a prophet. We are called to live the Gospel. We are called to be models of Christ. We are called at times to point out errors. Now, we are generally not very popular when we do that. I can think of many instances right now where the Church is pointing out errors and taking a lot of heat for it. But there are lessons for us in the Gospel today.
First, when Jesus sent out the disciples, He sent them out in pairs. They were not alone. A message has more power when it comes from a group united just like our message has more power when we are united with the Church. Second, Jesus told the disciples not to carry anything with them. He told them this so that they would rely on God; so they would not be so bogged down with stuff. Like the disciples, when we rely on God through prayer and the sacraments, we receive the power and support that we need to be modern prophets. He also told them to focus on serving others and not seeking reward. This is why he told them to stay in one place so they would not be perceived as moving up the ladder, so they would not bring offense to one host if they left that house to a better place of accommodation.
He also told his disciples “Deliver my message. Speak the truth. Be an example. But if they don’t listen to you, don’t get angry. Don’t get mean. Don’t get hateful. Shake the dirt off of your feet and move on”. That’s not very common in today’s world. Years ago I stopped reading comments in news articles because they tend to just be attacks against each other. They’re not an organized, loving discussion. It’s easy to get sucked into the cycle of anger and negativity. I choose to read the news and then shake the dust off of my feet. And we are called to do the same. We are called to rely on God and to serve others with love and trust in the Lord.