Gospel Mark 6:7-13
Dear friends, on this 15th Sunday in ordinary time, we reflect on the theme – called and sent on mission. The related themes of vocation and mission are highlighted in the Readings of this Sunday’s Liturgy.
Amos, the first of the great prophets, lived in the 8th century before Christ. This was the time of peace and prosperity in the northern kingdom of Israel but also a time of corruption and exploitation of the poor masses. In the First Reading, Amos is forced to defend his vocation as a prophet to Israel. Amos came from a poor village in the southern kingdom of Judah, courageously denounced the social injustices inflicted upon the poor and confronted Amaziah the priest. Amaziah lived in a wealthy national shrine of Bethel and was a spiritual director or chaplain to the King Jeroboam II. Because he was highly paid, he was unhappy with Amos when he questioned the unjust practices of the political establishment. So Amaziah orders Amos to return back home to Judah, to prophesy there and earn his bread, because he doesn’t want him to interfere with his priestly administration. In his reply, Amos defends his prophetic vocation as a direct call from God and not as an inherited position with status, like that of Amaziah and the priestly class in which he belongs. Amos was a poor farmer taking care of sycamore trees, and he was a shepherd as well, before the Lord called him to go and prophesy to the people of Israel. This is a call he must obey, not at all the orders of the royal court.
The example of Amos reminds us of our own prophetic vocation as members of the Church:
- to speak the truth to those in political power,
- to point and denounce the corrupt practices of governance,
- to point out when something is wrong to religious leaders or people of authority,
- and to defend the rights of the poor and exploited people of our time.
Sometimes some religious leaders behave like Amaziah – as long as they benefit from governments, politicians or religious leaders, they feel gagged to expose certain things that do not match with society. In other words, we compromise our conscience with what we gain from other people. Even when our friends go astray we don’t have the courage to correct our friends. Amos is an example for us today. No matter how closed we are, when we see somebody erring, we should not look on and keep quiet but prompt the person to repentance.
The Gospel recounts the call and the mission of the twelve chosen disciples of Jesus. Following His rejection in His own home town last Sunday, Jesus summons twelve of His disciples and sends them out on mission into the villages and towns where He Himself had already preached. He shares His mission and authority with them, the same authority He received from God, His Father – to cast out evil spirits, to heal and call to repentance which involves confronting evil; like Amos. Jesus sent the disciples out with detailed instructions on how they are to live. They are not to travel individually but two by two in pairs, a staff and sandals were the only exceptions, they are to travel light, no bread, bag, money or spare clothing. Their lifestyle is to be marked by a radical dependence on God and on the generosity of the people to whom they minister. Finally, the location of their ministry is to be people’s homes rather than the synagogues.
Like the apostles who are the foundation stones of the Church, we are also called to be missionaries, continuing the mission of Jesus in our world today, especially becoming the voice of the voiceless. Amaziah, who was supposed to become the voice of the voiceless, kept quiet because he was gagged from the benefits he got from the king. We are challenged today not to be blind and quiet to people who suffer, but to confront people in authority, to do something about the masses so they will also be comfortable in life. We pray for the grace to be the voices to the voiceless in our times. Amen.