July 13, 2018

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Amos is the source of the first reading for Mass this weekend. Amos is one of the relatively few prophets of whom something is known. Many prophets give some details about themselves, but not many give more than a few details.

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 was obviously intelligent and knew the traditions of his ancestors.

He wrote during the reign of King Uzziah of Judah, between the years of 783 and 742 B.C. It was a time of prosperity and national security.

Even so, as often has been the case in history, the poor still were in want. The gap between the rich and the less fortunate was quite evident.

Amos saw himself as an authentic prophet. The others who called themselves prophets in his time, he thought, were hired by the king ultimately to strengthen the king’s rule over the people. Under such arrangements, these other prophets could not be trusted to preach the undefiled word of 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, Ephesus was a major commercial center in the Roman Empire, being an important port on the Mediterranean Sea. (Shifts in the soil and collections of sediment along the coast have left the ruins of Ephesus, in present-day Turkey, a distance from the seashore.)

Ephesus also was a center for the vices and fast business usually associated with major ports.

In addition, it was one of the most popular religious shrines in the empire. Its great temple, dedicated to Diana, the goddess of the moon, was an architectural marvel 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. Paul in his letter sought to reinforce the commitment of the followers of Christ in the city. This reading served this purpose by reminding the Christian Ephesians that Jesus died for them, and that they are one in faith with the Lord.

St. Mark’s Gospel furnishes the last reading.

In this reading, Jesus summons the Twelve, the Apostles whom the Lord called by name. He sends them out into the highways and byways, telling them not to burden themselves with supplies or provisions. God will supply.

They obediently went out into the countryside, preaching what Jesus had taught them. They possessed the Lord’s power, driving devils away. They anointed the sick and cured them, using that ancient gesture of healing and strengthening mentioned elsewhere in the Bible.

Reflection

The reading from the Epistle to the Ephesians is key to understanding this weekend’s Liturgy of the Word. It was originally written for a group of believers surrounded on all sides by paganism, hostility and sin.

Paul reassured them, and this weekend through the readings, he reassures us. We have been redeemed. Our knowledge of Christ is neither accidental nor coincidental. God has chosen us individually. Christ is with us.

Still, we need nourishment and guidance as we continue to live on Earth. God did not abandon the chosen people in ancient times. He sent prophets to them.

This divine concern endures. God sent messengers, in the persons of the Twelve, and the messengers now are the bishops of the Church who bring us the words of the Gospels even now.

God heals us in Christ through the Apostles and their successors. Healed and renewed, we move forward to eternal life. We will never die. †

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