July 13, 2012

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Amos provides this weekend’s first reading.

Amos is one of the relatively few prophets of whom some personal details are known. Many prophets gave some information about their lives in writing, but most gave little or none.

By contrast, it is known that Amos was from Tekoa, a small village about 10 miles south of Jerusalem in Judea. He herded sheep and tended fig trees. He obviously was intelligent, and knew the traditions of his ancestors.

He wrote during the reign of King Uzziah of Judah between the years 783 B.C. and 742 B.C.

Amos saw himself as an authentic prophet. The other so-called prophets of his time, he thought, were hired by the king ultimately to validate the king’s rule over the people.

Under such arrangements, the other prophets could not be trusted to preach the undefiled word of God. Amos had no use for these imposters. They were not God’s servants, and were not sent by God.

This weekend’s reading reports a clash between Amos and a priest in the temple in Jerusalem. Amos reasserts his role, insisting that he was called by God to be a prophet.

St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians provides the second reading.

In the first century A.D., Ephesus was a major commercial center in the Roman Empire, an important port on the Mediterranean Sea. Only ruins remain today.

Ephesus hosted a fast traffic in vice, which was usually associated with major ports. In addition, it was the home of one of the most popular pagan religious shrines in the empire. Its great temple, dedicated to Diana, the goddess of the moon, was one of the marvels of the ancient world. Pilgrims came from everywhere in the empire to venerate the goddess.

Accommodating these pilgrims was itself a big business in Ephesus. The epistle sought to reinforce the commitment of the Christians in the city. This reading serves that purpose by reminding them that Jesus died for them, and that in faith they are one with the Lord, their Redeemer.

St. Mark’s Gospel furnishes the last reading.

In this reading, Jesus summons “The Twelve,” the Apostles whom the Lord had deliberately called by name to the apostolic vocation. Jesus sends them out onto the highways and byways. He instructs them. He tells them not to burden themselves with supplies or provisions because God will supply their needs.

The Apostles were obedient. They were the Lord’s representatives and spokesmen. They went out into the countryside and preached what Jesus had taught them. They possessed the Lord’s power. They drove devils away. They anointed the sick—using that ancient gesture of healing and strengthening mentioned elsewhere in the Bible—and cured the sick.

Jesus warned the Apostles that they would not be welcomed everywhere. In actual fact, according to tradition, only John did not die as a martyr.

Reflection

The reading from Amos sets the stage this weekend. God communicates with us and guides us, but only through those persons whom God expressly commissions. This reading from St. Mark validates the role and identity of the Apostles. No upstart can claim to equal a genuine prophet or Apostle.

St. Paul wrote his epistle to believers who were besieged on all sides by paganism and hostility. The epistle reassured them. It also reassures us. We have been redeemed. God has chosen us. Christ is with us.

We find God and we hear the Lord, but not by coincidence or luck. God sends the Good News of salvation to us through the very Son of God and also through the Twelve to whom the Lord commissioned to carry on the continuing work of mercy and salvation.

Quite simply, these Twelve live—and still act—in and through the Church. Imposters will challenge them and attempt to usurp their role.

Perhaps the imposter is the tendency within each of us to sin. †

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