Today’s initial reading is from Amos (7:12-15). It seems of little importance at first, but appearances are often deceiving. In fact, when read in conjunction with the gospel reading in Mark, it raises some extraordinary questions for us.
Amos is a shepherd, and we know from history that shepherds in this time and place were lowly and somewhat held at arm’s length by the surrounding communities. They lived their lives in isolation in the hills and were rough men. You can but imagine that he had little in the way of education or social grace.
Yet we learn that God has plans for Amos. At this time, the Hebrews have split into two countries, Judah to the South and Israel to the North. Judah encompasses Jerusalem, while the religious center of Israel is Bethel.
Bethel and it’s priests under the leadership of Jeraboam, have set up a new worship practice, one not authorized by Yahweh. It is here that Amos is sent from his home in Judah to warn Israel that she is straying from the right path.
As you might assume, this Amos is met with no little anger and dismissal:The high priest Amaziah shouts:
“Go away seer, taken yourself off to Judah, earn your living there, and there you can prophesy!”
One wonders if similar thoughts coursed through the minds of the Twelve when we learn that Jesus, after being rejected in his own home town, sends off his followers to preach the “good news”.
Will they be received in similar fashion? After all, Jesus instructs them to “take nothing” not even a second tunic. They are to beg housing among strangers in these towns, and to go meekly from those that dismiss them and have no interest in their message. Did they think they were going to face the same derision and hostility that faced Amos on his mission to Israel?
Paul tells us that God chose us in him, “before the foundation of the world.”
Yet we all, at one point or other feel ill-equipped to answer the call that God makes to us.
We feel that we are not educated enough, not old enough, too old, not healthy enough, not wealthy enough to sustain the difficulties, too busy, needed by others, not worthy, and on and on. We, like so many of the great prophets of history, have excuses upon excuses. Moses stuttered, or had difficulty speaking.
Surely we can all agree that we feel unworthy of God’s choosing us to speak truth. Who are we after all? Mere mortal humans. None of us, for the most part, would feel experienced enough, wise enough, versed enough, in scripture and theology to have the audacity to go out and attempt to convert others.
And indeed all those things are true. We are not worthy. Yet we miss the most important aspect.
It is not ourselves that speak. We are not constructing some message we have thought of.
We are not alone. We have the gift of the Holy Spirit which, if we pay close attention, will lead us straight.
This is the important point that Jesus was trying to make when he sent out the Twelve with virtually nothing to fall back upon. They were to depend solely on God. They were to learn that they needed nothing further.
Of course, this has led a good many well-meaning folks to do similar things in our modern world. They have taken to the streets and stood on corners preaching to largely deaf ears. We do well to consider there are few fields to glean wheat from in the streets of New York City!
But in any case, we are told that we each have a vocation, one blessed by God, if we accept the call. And we can rest assured that when we rightly discern that call, the Holy Spirit will assist us in fulfilling our calling. That is not to say that times will always be rosy and easy, they most certainly will not, but we can know that our continued attention to the mission will prove bountiful in the end.
The Twelve were able to do great things on their trek of preaching.
Amen.Amos 7: 12-15 Eph 1: 3-14 Mk 6: 7-13
- Seeking God – The Book of Amos (walkingwithbenedict.wordpress.com)
- Behind the Homily: July 15 (charlesbonaventure.wordpress.com)
- Holy Troublemakers (livingontilt.wordpress.com)