Those called by God to preach to others ought to know that they have entered into a minefield of obstacles. It is always dangerous when it comes to speak the truth where falsehood has been going on unchecked. Preaching repentance provokes the unknown to the surface thus creating uneasiness. Nevertheless, God continues to call provokers into this type of ministry since it is the main way for many to recover and live. Today we are invited to ready for surprises.
First reading: Amos 7:12-15
In many instances, God’s call leads ministers into places they would rather not go and to serve people whom they may have never chosen to be associated. It is most probable that Amos would have never left his sheep and sycamore trees in rural Judah to travel to the great cult center of Bethel in Israel in order to confront the Priest Amaziah. He would never have chosen to risk his personal safety by denouncing the idolatry and injustices that were threatening Israel’s covenantal relationship with God. But God told him Go! Amos left his livelihood, his security and personal preferences for a mission and a future he had not planned. Yet, the more he spoke on behalf of God, the more convincing this prophet became. Amos did not travel far; nevertheless, the distance of 30 miles between his native Tekoa and the shrine at Bethel made him a stranger due to cultural, economic and theological difference. Amos was a simple shepherd and migrant worker who tended seasonal sycamore trees; by his own admission he announced that not a prophet and never dreamt of participating in a field of this mature. To make things worse Amos was an illiterate lay young man from the south sent to speak harsh truth to an educated and sophisticated cleric
Despite this background, Amos would not be silent by any one because his message was from God. He ministered during the reign of Jeroboam between 786-746 B.C when prosperity was visible. Despite all the peace and wealth, a lot of injustice was disgusting since the rich were auctioning the poor for a pair of sandals. Amos challenged these wealthy few including Amaziah who were contented with extravagant profit at the expense of widows and orphans. Because of this, the tribes of Israel would soon experience the dark side of the Day from the Lord. This prediction came true when Assyria attacked and conquered Israel in 722 B.C. Whether Amos lived to witness this, we cannot know with any certainty. However, his style of prophesying lived on to set a revolutionary pattern admired by many until today. Amos was the first of his kind whose only loyalty was to God and whose principal task was to bring the truth to society. This example invites us to sustain the same.
Second reading: Ephesians 1:3-14
The Letter to the Ephesians came in on time to provide guidance for the disciples who needed encouragement. Paul modeled this doxology on the synagogue blessing liturgy meant for praising God for the gifts of creation and salvation. The word ‘blessing’ in Greek means thanksgiving, praise and sharing. A blessing praises God; affirms his character and motivates faith. Paul made it clear that a blessing is a choice that God extends to everyone with an intension of making them his chosen and adopted children. In a blessing God affirms that he still loves us and freely lavishes his Goods upon us. God’s love grants us the encouragement and strength we need for the day-to-day burdens and struggles that we encounter. Like Jesus who offered eloquent praise to God through his death, so also us are invited to become a verse in Jesus’ own song of praise by uniting our own difficulties to his.
Embracing it as a blessing, St. Paul calls us to celebrate God’s gifts of redemption, forgiveness, wisdom and insight as a mystery of his divine will which makes us disciples of the word and truth of the Gospel expresses in service. Lest the disciples still be discouraged, St Paul reminds us that the Holy Spirit keeps on giving. Sealed with the Spirit and empowered by his abiding presence, we access limitless possibilities for ministry through which we continuously pray and praise God. When we review all necessary graces that God is granting us; then we can fully realize how lucky we are to be among the chosen, loved, forgiven, redeemed and sealed with the Holy Spirit. Since we are equipped in this manner, there is no obstacle that we cannot surmount.
Gospel: Mark 6:7-13
Reading the instructions Jesus gave to his disciples, it would seem that they did not know how to pack for a trip. Incidentally most travelers do their best to anticipate needs and pack accordingly, yet the disciples of Jesus were to travel simple, with nothing to rely on except the companionship of another disciple ‘two by two’ and providence from God in whose name they were to preach repentance and heal the sick. The simplicity Jesus urged on his disciples was intended to help them focus on the needs of others and the task at hand. If, the walking stick, food, sack, money, sandals and tunic can be seen as symbols of a material culture, it is clear that Jesus intended his disciples to live like the people to whom they were being sent. They were not to export or impose their own comfort but instead to share his mission and follow his lead. Jesus set aside the comfort of heaven by “emptied himself and took on human nature as all men are” Philippians 2:6-11.
Even before surrendering himself on the cross, Jesus lived a simple lifestyle choosing to devote all of his efforts to the service of others. He had nowhere to lay his head, he was mobile deciding to meet the needy where they lived. Like Amos, Jesus was told to ‘Go!’ and he set off without distraction. Besides the simplicity of lifestyle and the mobility of their ministry, Jesus also offered his disciples a lesson in realism and common sense. Enter where you are welcomed and offer freely all you have to give without charge. In the event that a welcome is not forthcoming, leave and move on to others who need your services and shake off the dust from your feet. By recommending this action, Jesus affirmed not only the urgency of the Gospel ministry but also the danger of simply ignoring God’s plan to save human beings. Rather than fret over a failure in one place, the disciples of Jesus are to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and start all over again. Easier said than done, the ability to keep persevering through the often dangerous and unfriendly minefields of the Christian mission is made possible only by remaining in continuous close contact with the one who has sent you. To be a true disciple means to sustain the original contact.
Like Prophet Amos we are called to maintain the pace when executing God’s agenda and indeed any valuable commitment. Times may prove tough going but we have to be hardened enough to achieve the good objective. Our strength to accomplish such a commitment is only possible if we imitate and practice the humility of Jesus Christ. As true disciple always willing to succeed, we must remain connected to the sender. In this we shall treasure simple life style thus bearing witness to the truth that originates from the Kingdom of God.