Sunday, July 12, 2015

15th Sunday Ordinary Time - Mark 6: 7-13 - "Blessed and Sent"

Today we hear of the prophet Amos, a messenger sent by God to warn the people of Israel to turn away from their corrupt ways.  At this time the land of Israel was divided into two kingdoms, Judah in the south and Israel in the north.  While Judah was poor and humble, Israel was rich and powerful.  With their vast wealth and power came corruption and wanton living.  In their social depravity they worshipped many gods of their own making, turning away from the Law of the One True God.

The people of Israel lived in a land of plenty; sharing its bounty only among the rich and powerful.  They built temples to their own gods and created festivals and feasts to celebrate those things they held in high esteem – wealth and pleasure, fortified by sacrilegious practices.  They exploited the poor and sold them into slavery.  They created unjust laws that benefited their luxuriant ways of life, betraying the innocent and powerless; having no pity on the lowly, especially those who without a voice.

Into this land of Israel the Lord sent His servant Amos.  Now, Amos was a simple man, a commoner who tended sheep and dressed sycamores (someone who, with a sharp stick, pierces the hard shell surrounding the small fig-like fruit of the sycamore tree, so they will ripen).  Amos was not a scholar of the Law or an experienced teacher, but he was a just man: faithful and obedient servant of the Lord.  

Amos came to the king of Israel’s high priest, Amaziah, to warn the king and the people to turn away from their corrupt ways and unacceptable practices.  He admonished them for their injustices to the poor and marginalized and their worship practices that were offensive to God.

For Amos’ preaching to the people to turn back to God and to, “. . . let justice flow like water and integrity like an unfailing stream.” Amaziah accuses Amos of plotting against the king and of being a prophet in the pay of one of the king’s enemies.  He denounces Amos; ordering him to leave the land of Israel, to go prophesy in his own land of Judah and cease haranguing the people of Israel.  

Amos counters Amaziah’s accusations and command to leave, telling him that he is a just and simple man, a humble servant of the Lord and that it was God himself who sent Amos to Israel, saying, “Go, prophesy to my people, Israel.”

Just as God sent Amos to the people of Israel, Jesus sends his disciples to preach among the people.  He sends them out two by two, on their first foray into a hostile world; warning them to take nothing extra, no food, no sack, no money – no second tunic, but only a walking stick and sandals on their feet.  They are to accept the hospitality of those who welcome them and shake the dust off their feet against those who will not accept their message of repentance of their sins.  

In doing so, Jesus echoes the encounter of Amos in the land of Israel.  His disciples are to be God’s messengers, simple and humble.  They are to have no attachments or burdens; relying solely upon God’s mercy for all their needs - for He will provide, as they go about preaching His word of repentance, healing the sick and casting out demons in His name.  
"For they are blessed by God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,who has blessed them in Christwith every spiritual blessing in the heavens,as he chose them in him, before the foundation of the world,to be holy and without blemish before him." 
We too have our commission and blessing from God, as his chosen ones: To make known His love for all His children and His gift of salvation through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus.   We are to rely on God’s love and mercy; taking nothing with us except His Word and the love with which we are loved, as we go about bringing His Good News to all the world.

God chooses the weak things of the world to humble the mighty in making his kingdom known.  We each, as disciples of our Lord, Jesus, are blessed and sent, like Amos and the ‘Twelve’, to “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.” We are called to speak the Word of God in faith and truth, with simplicity and humbleness of heart, His message of repentance of sins and His gift of salvation through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Today, we are called to speak out God’s Word in a hard-hearted and sinful world, as did Amos, the ‘Twelve’ and all God’s messengers throughout the ages.  We faithful disciples of the Lord are called and blessed by God to speak His Truth, His Love and His desire for all His people so they may cling to Him in this world, and so they may take their rightful place in His kingdom of peace and everlasting life. ~ Amen


Deacon Don

Saturday, July 4, 2015

14th Sunday Ordinary Time - Mark 6:1-6 - "I am with you always"

“Do not be afraid!”
“Trust in the Lord!”
“Take heart! I have overcome the world”

These are trying times, especially for Christians.  It is never easy bringing the Word of God to the world.  The evil-one works hard to cloud people’s minds; preventing them from hearing the Truth, seeing the Way and gaining the Life of God’s promise to those who love Him.

We hear today of the challenges facing those who bring the Good News to the people; doing the good works of God and speaking God’s message of love and salvation for His children

God tells Ezekiel that he is sending him to prophecy among those who have rebelled against Him.  The “Hard of face and obstinate of heart. . .”  These are the ones who have completely rejected all that God has done for them. They have chosen to follow and worship gods of their own desires.  God tells Ezekiel that whether they heed him or not, they are to know, by his presence, in the power and truth of God’s message: that a prophet, a messenger from God, has been among them.

Now, being a prophet of God was a challenging task, especially when God tells you that He is sending you among those who are set against Him.  What we do not get in today’s reading is what God tells Ezekiel in the next line:

“But as for you, son of man, fear neither them nor their words when they contradict you and when you sit on scorpions.  Neither fear their words nor dismay at their looks for they are a rebellious house.”

“When you sit on scorpions . . .” Wow!  Fear not! Trust in the Lord! 
God takes care of His children, his chosen ones – those who speak His Truth even when they fall among the scorpions in a rebellious world.  Trust in God and be not afraid to speak the Truth even when we know the words we speak in His name will be despised, scorned and rejected.  If we love the Lord, we cannot do otherwise, but speak His Truth.

Paul cries, “. . . a thorn in the flesh was given me and an angel of Satan, to beat me . . .” begging God to relieve him of these afflictions, as he was bringing Christ to the people.  

Even this great Apostle to the Gentiles was afflicted with trials and challenges while doing the work of the Lord.  An easy pathway of discipleship is not promised to God’s chosen ones.  His grace and love is our only consolation in this world, giving us the courage and power to endure all things.

Paul was challenged by false prophets who sought to usurp and corrupt the Word of God to their own purposes, to their ways in the world.  They tried to discredit Paul and sway people to turn away from his message of God’s love and salvation through Jesus Christ.  Paul’s lament points the people to Jesus and away from himself.  It is in bringing the Truth of Jesus that gives Paul his strength, enabling him to endure all hardship, insults and persecutions, “for the sake of Christ.”

Even those who should have loved Jesus best, family, friends and hometown villagers, turned their back on him, questioning his word and the things that he had done, ‘healing the sick, raising the dead, giving sight to the blind and curing the deaf and the lame’.  Among his own people he was not able to do any of these things, except for a curing a few sick people – most likely visitors from out of town.

His own people failed to see the Truth of Jesus’ words.  They were blinded by their preconceptions of the Jesus whom they thought they knew so well.  Can you not hear them saying, ‘I know Jesus. I helped his Mother change his nappy!’ or ‘Isn’t that the kid who was always wandering off, worrying his parents to no end?’

  • How many of us have had this similar experience among our own family and friends?  
  • How many of us have known someone who became famous before they achieved their fame?  What did we say or think about them?

So, even Jesus was challenged to bringing His message of God’s love and salvation to the people.  His message fell on deaf ears and was outright rejected as being too hard to follow.  As Christians, as witnesses of the Truth of God’s love for the world, as evangelizers of the Word of God – Take heart! Be not afraid!

The love of Christ impels us to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit . . .” But, we say, ‘How can we do this - these are challenging times, this is an increasingly hostile world!’  

Not more so than the times faced by Ezekiel or by Paul or by any others who speak God’s Truth to the world. And we have courage in Christ Jesus, who loves us so much that He overcame the world through His death on the cross.  

Jesus has not, nor will he ever, abandon us, for He continues His challenge of evangelizing the world with these words of encouragement and consolation, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”  Amen.

Deacon Don