Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 15, 2018 – Year B
Readings: Am 7:12-15 / Ps 85 / Eph 1:3-14 / Mk 6:7-13
by Rev. Dan Kelly, Guest Celebrant
About seven hundred years before the coming of Our Lord, the kingdom of Israel was divided into two nations: Israel to the north and Judah to the south. Amos was ordered by God to go to Israel, to prophesy there, to tell the people how to change. What was going wrong in Israel was that Israel had won a great battle against its enemies. They were quite content, feeling pretty good. The economy was really going up; they had many extra workers coming in from other places to work. So things were looking pretty good, and they were beginning to relax their own personal moral life. They were even forgetting God, just going through the motions, as it were.
So the Lord sends Amos to prophesy to Israel, and Amos says, I’m just out here watching the sheep and, during certain times of the year, I go down to where they have the sycamore trees, and I trim them and get them ready for the picking. That’s my specialty. I know nothing about prophesying.
But he goes, and he does as God commanded. He’s told by the high priest, Amaziah: Get out of here. Go someplace else. And Amos, who is humble, says “I am not a prophet. I was told to do this, because the Hebrew people were abandoning God.”
Amos is not a mercenary prophet. Not all the other prophets were mercenary. We have some excellent, wonderful prophets, some of whom even gave up their lives. But many were going around, and they were getting income from prophesying. (And prophesying, as we know, is not foreseeing the future, except as a warning. Prophesying means giving the message of God.)
The high priest calls Amos a “visionary,” which was a derogatory term. It’s almost like saying you’re hallucinating, that you’ve got all these imaginings.
Now we go to the gospel, and Jesus is sending His disciples. They’ve already been taught; they know. And so Jesus is very careful to explain what they’re to do. When you go someplace to visit people, to cure or whatever, don’t be going from house to house. Sometimes people want to entertain and compete with one another: “Look, we had the disciples over to our house. We put a wonderful spread out and invited a few choice neighbors.” That kind of thing would be human nature, and Jesus didn’t want that to happen. He didn’t want His disciples to say, “It was a nice visit. I have to go down the street here and go to another house and see what kind of a welcome we’ll get over there.” Don’t go from house to house.
Also, Jesus was very careful to say what they should or should not bring with them. “Wear your sandals.” People of means could wear regular shoes that were strapped well, and that protected all the parts of your foot. But most people of ordinary means didn’t have shoes; they had sandals. You couldn’t walk around the sturdy byways of Galilee without having something for your feet. But only one pair. Don’t bring an extra tunic. So that meant that, when they were traveling, they would have to go down to the river, wash their tunic and dry it, then keep on going. Don’t carry provisions and extra food, or money to buy things.
What did the disciples do? They preached repentance. They drove out demons. They anointed with oil many who were sick, and they cured them.
Mark creates an instruction of discipleship. This is going to be a little different for us, because we’re not going around to the various villages or up and down the streets of Bedford or elsewhere, trying to follow this specific message. But we’re going to do it in a way that we can in our life. Discipleship sustains the life of the Church, and it’s also a preparation for suffering, which is why Jesus says, Don’t carry all these provisions with you.
Simplicity. Trust in divine Providence. Take no extra bread. No preparations. What does this mean in our lives? How are we to be disciples?
Shortly, we’re going to have religious education starting. We are still in need of catechists. You may say, I don’t know enough to teach religion. Maybe begin as an assistant, an inspiration for the children and the teenagers. It’s a hard thing to do, because one may not have the confidence. Build it up, because the Holy Spirit is with you. We need catechists in our parish.
Then we have scripture study groups. What ministry is that? To learn, the grace to learn more and to encourage other parishioners to participate.
And then there is visiting people, including people in nursing homes. Is there anything that says, on a Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon, even if you don’t have a friend or relative there, you can’t say, “I think I’m going to go over there, park my car, and just go in.” All you have to go in is sign in and just walk around the corridor and see people, maybe staring at the TV, not paying much attention to it. But giving a greeting and doing that ministry is a wonderful thing, and something you don’t even have to sign up for.
These are the forms of discipleship that you have here, as well as taking Holy Communion to the sick.
There’s your assignment. You’re all now Amos. You are all now the disciples that Jesus sent.