Amos 6:7-13; Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6:7-13
All the three readings of today tell us of the mission that is specifically given to every individual by Jesus. Every person is specially and individually called by God for a task or a mission. We will not comprehend the mission easily unless we are totally attentive to his calling just as young Samuel was and respond as Isaiah or Jeremiah prophet did. Our entire person must be totally attentive to his invitation. In the Gospel of Mark as in Synoptic Gospels, we see Jesus sending out his disciples on a mission. They are sent to the Israelite community to speak about the kingdom. They are to proclaim the need for repentance and offer them the gift of healing. His instructions to the disciples are very clear: they are to go with a partner, carry only a walking stick and wear their sandals. They are to go empty without any money or bread and be prepared to shake off the dust off their feet should they reject them. Jesus shares this message with us too to decide and see how we should use the gifts given by God who sends us on a mission. Jesus also wants us to know and he is particular that we are not alone on our mission. Before his return to the Father he sends his disciples on the mission to Baptise and heal and he tells them he will be there with them till the end of time. He is the one who is concerned of all. As we share the Eucharist we realise the companionship that he provides us.
In the First Reading taken from the Book of Amos in the Old Testament, we heard that the Lord told Amos, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.” He is called upon to speak as a prophet the word of God. People of teh time were aware of the role of a prophet. A prophet is one who speaks for God and speaks against the values of the world. Amos would have spoken things that displeased the king and the priest of the place, Amaziah tells him that the kings is angry with him and he is likely to kill him. It is better that he looks for his safety. In contrast the false prophets praised the king and justified their acts and received their reward and their earnings. But Amos re-emphasises the call of God. He tells the priest it is God who called him from nowhere and God will protect him. He asked him to speak the word of God and word of truth and he is bound to speak. In other words, he says that before the choice of God the human choice is null and void. The reading tells us that God’s call is a gratuitous one. God Chooses any one as he chose Amos who was a shepherd and farmer. Or again we read in the letter to the Hebrews, in those days, “in many and various ways God spoke of old to our father by the prophets at many times and in various ways.” Each prophet received a distinct commission according to his calling. Now the special calling has come in Jesus and through him it has come to each one of us.
In the Second Reading Paul tells the Ephesians’ Community that we were chosen by God before creation and wanted us to be saved by the blood of his son Jesus. His plan for us existed from the beginning as he cared for each and every one of us. God did not choose us when we committed ourselves at our Baptism or because of any of our good deeds. He chose each of because we are his own and we existed in the eternal plan of salvation. The choice of the Father is such that he never abandoned us. Having destined us for adoption as His children through Jesus Christ, the Heavenly Father chose everyone of us to be holy and blameless before Him in love. And all of this is freely given to us to manifest the praise of His glorious grace. He makes us his real children, purchases us by the blood and makes us precious before him. He gives all these gifts freely that we may fully inherit the divine life. He wants us that our inheritance that comes through Christ, through whom we were destined according to the Will of God to be called the children of God. Our hope is in Christ so we may live for the praise of His glory. The final words that we heard from Paul tell us that “This is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, in the praise of His glory.” Further, not only did God promise to give everyone of us those gifts before we were born, but He also promised to place His Holy Spirit within us to help us remain good by obeying His Holy ways. That is the reason why Paul starts the letter with the words, “Blessed be our God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”
The Gospel of today tells us that our personal calling demands us to be available in Christian love to share the Word of God with those who are open to Divine grace. The Gospel of last Sunday told us that the mission of Jesus was not very successful during his visit to his home town. He now goes on to other towns and villages where he is wanted and people expect him to come work miracles there. But as a human person Jesus cannot reach out everywhere and he calls the twelve apostles together and gives them a task to fulfil and to receive their special mission from Jesus himself. He tells them to go out, two by two, and, like him, to drive out “unclean” spirits. They are to do the task he himself was doing and continue doing that task. It was not just to drive away the devil. It was more a call to healing for all sickness they thought came from the evil one. They are called upon to reduce the pain and the power of the evil one. We need the help of Jesus to liberate us from all evil situations. Jesus today is inviting us to cooperate with him. He wants us to be his instruments of liberation, to help others recover their freedom.
Yet his demands are heavy. He tells us that if we are to help people recover their freedom, we too must be a free people. So Jesus tells his apostles when they go out to evangelise, they should not bring many things with them. No food, no backpack, no money, no extra clothes. This teaching does not seem to be very practical to our ears. He also tells them that when his disciples went on the mission of the kingdom, there would be at least some to welcome them and give them what they needed, namely the hospitality. They are not to look for comfort, but rather a place where God dwells, a place of peace. If no one received them in that place, they were to shake the dust off their feet and go to a more hospitable environment.
Thus the Gospel today is saying two things to us that each Christian is called not only to be a disciple but also to be an apostle. A disciple is one who hears, who accepts and who carries out the teaching of Jesus in his/her life. A disciple follows Jesus, imitates Jesus, becomes a second Christ. An apostle is not only a follower but also an evangeliser. He is to be sent on a mission with a message from a superior – an ambassador, an envoy. Every person who has been baptised has this mission and this calling, actively to share their faith with others. We work with the lord to help people find or recover their freedom. We help people to cure their sicknesses, physical, psychological and emotional.
The second thing that Jesus is telling us to go through our lives with the maximum of freedom and the minimum of burdens. The apostles were told to go out bringing with them only the message they had received from Jesus and nothing else. All of us have heavy burdens to carry that has come from the past or from the present situations. There worries and anxieties in our heads which also can paralyse us and prevent us living rich and enriching lives. Jesus himself is a model for us for he had only the clothes on his back and had “nowhere to lay his head”. He could have possessed whatever he needed but it was not to be. He was born poor and he died poor and in fact he lived a life of poverty. But he tells us that each of us has a calling according to the Divine Will of God. We all have been commissioned through Jesus Christ to lead a life worthy of adoption to become children of God.
We all have been sent by God and the church to spread and defend the faith before our family, our friends and our co-workers, we can expect that our Christian obligation will not be easy. We have to be prepared to be rejected by many or even communities because we represent Jesus on earth. But we should feel happy because we are in good company. We will be counted among those who have been rejected, our Lord Jesus, St. Paul, St. Stephen and all the martyrs of the Holy Catholic Church. We will be counted among our brothers and sisters in Christ who today are sharing the same hardship in the hope of the glory to come. What is important for us is to listen to the voice of the Lord continuously.
Fifteenth Sunday of the Year July 12, 2009
Amos 6:7-13; Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6:7-13