XV Sunday in ordinary time

XV Sunday in ordinary time

Sab, 10 Lug 21 Lectio Divina - Anno B

On the 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time, in the prescribed Gospel passage, Jesus appears to give the same advice to his apostles whom he commissions: travel Light. The first reading tells us that God uses ordinary people for extraordinary service. The second reading shows that God wants everyone under the heavens to enjoy his holy grace. The Gospel reveals that all Christians will be held accountable to Jesus Christ.

First Reading: Amos 7:12-15

  The prophet Amos is sent from Bethel.

The first reading today is from the Prophet Amos. We can almost laugh at ourselves when we speak of him as a prophet. The Prophet Amos tells us: “I was not a prophet, nor have I belonged to a company of prophets; I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. The Lord took me from following the flock, and said to me, Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”

Most of us have no sense of being called. We are very much like this Prophet Amos, going about our own business and doing what we have to do to earn our living and get along in life. Amos tells us, however, that he was taken by the Lord from following his flock and told to prophesy to God’s people Israel.

Many times prophets like Amos were seen as traitors because they spoke out against a corrupt ruling authority. They saw the prophet as an enemy rather than one who exposed sin and tried to help save the people of that nation. In today’s reading, we see Amaziah, the chief priest in Israel, becoming very defensive about maintaining his position, which he felt was more important than listening to the truth. Amos, on the other hand, said, “Yes, Lord” to be a prophet without any special preparation, education, or upbringing. Amos humbly obeyed God’s call to “go and prophesy to my people Israel.” Amos responded well to the test that all of God’s faithful servants have to experience.

The test that faced Amos and all other martyrs and saints in our time of salvation history is obedience. Today the core of love is obedience, and to be obedient is to be a holy person. Jesus was obedient, even unto death on a Cross for us. Amos shows us the incredible power that comes from being obedient to God’s will.

Amos had just been expelled from the church by the high priest, Amaziah. The high priest told him to go earn his bread someplace else. He implied very strongly that Amos was a prophet for hire because he did not want to hear Amos reveal the truth. Amos tells him in no uncertain terms that he is not an opportunist, nor does he keep company with evil people. Amos goes on to tell the high priest that he is just an ordinary man who makes a living as a shepherd and a dresser of sycamore trees. He tells him that the Lord took him from his everyday life and told him to go and prophesy to the people of Israel. Amos knew the dangers of this type of vocation, and yet in obedience, he said, “Yes, Lord.”

We too have been called simply because God has chosen each one of us, and he knows each one of us by name. Like Amos, we, too, are called to a vocation, and we are being called to go forth and make disciples of all nations (Math. 28:19). We are strongest when in obedience we say, “Yes, Lord.”

By our baptism, each of us is called to take up this same role and to be priest, king and prophet. We are called to be priests because we are called to intercede for others. We are called to be kings because we are called to serve others. We are called to be prophets because the word of God must be proclaimed by us. We should never confuse this form of priesthood with the ordained priest. Nevertheless, it is priesthood because the role of priesthood for all of us, whether ordained or not, is to intercede for others with God. For most of us, it is clear that we are not kings in the normal sense of that word, but with an understanding that kingship is really about serving others, then we can recognize that true kingship is given to all who serve others and seek their wellbeing and good. And the role of the prophet is simply to proclaim the word that God has given to us. Prophecy does not come from us but is a matter of our proclaiming the word of God and what it means for our world.

Second Reading:  Ephesians 1:3-14

  Paul teaches that we were chosen for Christ before the creation of the world.

The second reading today is from the Letter to the Ephesians and we are this: “In him, we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped in Christ.” We are called, we have been chosen. Why? For His glory, for the praise of His glory. We can really be transformed when we recognize that each of us is chosen. Faith has not just “happened” to us. No, we have been chosen and must respond to that calling, that choice. We have heard the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation, and have believed in him and have been sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.

We can live our whole lives without recognizing this call. We can live all our lives without recognizing that we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit. Our Scriptures and our Church keep telling us these realities and so often they go over our heads and we don’t understand.

In his writing to the Ephesians, Paul is completely overwhelmed by the realization of what God has done for us in Christ and he cannot but pour out his thanks and praise. When it comes to being disciples, Jesus asks us to develop a habit of trust. This is not blind faith but a willingness to really come to know him and be changed from within. It is only then that we can share in his

Paul wrote this passage from inside the walls of a Roman prison to the church at Ephesus. He wanted them to nurture and maintain the unity within the new and growing church. Ephesus was a commercial, political, and religious center for all of Asia Minor.

We see the beginning of heaven as being wherever God is, and, therefore, every blessing in heaven had tremendous meaning. We can be very grateful for all the good things that God gives us – salvation, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, power to do God’s will. We can live with the hope of eternity with Christ. We do not have to wait until we die to enjoy these blessings, as they are ours to enjoy now. We are told that “God chose us” to emphasize that the offer of salvation depends totally on God. We are not saved because we deserve to be saved, but because God is so gracious and freely gives salvation to us.

There is no way to take credit for God’s forgiveness or to find room for pride. God chose us and that makes us separate from the world. We have been chosen, and the choice to respond to his incredible gift is left up to each one of us. God chose us and when we belong to him through Jesus Christ, we are transformed into a new creation. God has adopted us through the death and resurrection of Jesus to be his very own children. He has brought us into his family and made us heirs along with Jesus. It was the blood of Jesus that gave us redemption and forgiveness. Redemption is the price paid to gain freedom for a slave Jesus, through His death, paid the price to release us from our slavery to sin. We see that forgiveness was granted in the Old Testament on the basis of the shedding of the animal’s blood.

You and I are now forgiven on the basis of the shedding of Jesus’ blood. We cannot be saved without the incredible, voluntary, and loving gift of God’s holy grace. When you feel that your life is not very important to anyone, it is very important to remember that you have been chosen, that he has paid the price for you, and that you are a special gift in God’s eye. You are a precious present that brings him much joy.

Gospel Reading: Mark 6:7-13

  Jesus instructs his disciples and sends them to preach repentance.

The gospel calls every believer to believe what Jesus believed, lived as Jesus lived, loved as Jesus loved, and serve as Jesus served. That’s exactly what the gospel of Mark is trying to teach us. The Gospel of Mark today tells us about the role of the twelve. They are called. They are chosen. They are sent out. They are given a mission. This passage contains several separate sections, such as Jesus summoned the Twelve, Jesus gave them instructions, Jesus then gives them additional instructions and Additional instructions if their message is rejected.  Each has an important message for us today. It also calls us to find the right balance in our life between commitment and detachment. We must be committed to our responsibilities, addressing them with energy and with zeal. But we must not imagine that our commitment guarantees our success. We must put our work, and indeed our entire lives, in God’s hands

Jesus sent his disciples two by two on their journey with only their sandals, one tunic and a staff. Not very much, is it? If I had been asked to go on a journey with so little, I probably would have thought it impossible for me. And yet, Jesus is telling us that it is possible. There is so much more in the four things that Jesus told his disciples to bring and it is no different in today's life. What is he really asking us to bring on our life journey of great experiences, steep declines, wrong turns, and happy surprises. Whether we are tired or energized, afraid or inspired, reluctant or eager, we hopefully will open our eyes to something new every day.

The first thing Jesus asks us to do is to go two by two. He is reminding us, in the gospel, not to do it alone. To make sure that we have good support as we experience the ups and downs. Sharing the good times is as important as it is to share the not-so-great times. We are not here alone in this life and we are asked to reach out. Is it difficult to reach out? At times it is and Jesus encourages us to still do so. He knew his disciples would face difficulties so he sent them in pairs not only for safety but for companionship, encouragement and help. So it is for us to not do it alone.

The tunic and the sandals are wonderful symbols. Jesus knew how heavy it is to travel when wearing more than one tunic. How much do we carry on our shoulders during our lifetime. Jesus asks us to not carry so much. Take off that extra tunic. All the worries that we carry can bring us down. To hold on to them does not change any situation but destroys the spirit in us. We are asked to let it go. When Jesus said to "shake off the dust that is on your feet and off your sandals" it is for us to shake off all the guilt that we carry every day. We are asked to travel light and try not to take on everyone else's stuff, to not look back.

In this life, we are asked to keep growing, maturing but when we are weighed down and consumed by things that happen around us, our growth is held back. We are asked to leave the fears, the guilt we might be carrying behind. For we have only this moment and rehashing all that "could have been" and letting the guilt of "I should have" will not allow that wonderful moment to happen. We are not asked to fix everyone else's lives for they are on their own journey. How can we stay grounded if we are living in a circle of "What if I had done this instead" the circle can't enter the ground and it stops us from becoming rooted thus keeping us from living a full, balanced life. 

Jesus sent out his disciples in pairs so that as they evangelized, they could strengthen and encourage each other. He knew that many times they would face rejection and needed the support of a fellow believer. Our strength comes from God, but he meets many of our needs through teamwork with others. Jesus told the disciples to take nothing with them except the bare necessities. He wanted them to rely completely on his power. He told them not to move around from house to house but to be steady and clear with their message.

Jesus made it clear that the people themselves were responsible for their response to his message. The disciples were not to blame if the message was not accepted by the people. They were responsible for how faithfully and carefully they presented the message.

Today we are not responsible when others reject the teachings of Jesus Christ and even reject Christ personally. But we do have the responsibility to share the message of hope, the Good News, with others. We have been called by Christ to go forth and make disciples of all people. We, too, are called today to go forth and cast out demons and heal sick people. The challenge you and I must face is – do we really believe in the message of the Good News? We need to shake off the dust and move away from that place that does not know or agree that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. The unbelievers need to see that we are willing to lose friends, money, family, and even personal health before we would deny our Lord and Savior. The message is loud and clear, “I have given you every blessing under the heavens.

Today Jesus also calls us to preach and teach. We also are His disciples. Jesus calls us to reach out and touch others with our love, care and concern. In today’s world when most of us are in a hurry or too busy to slow down, we can give the gift of our interest, time and support. This may not sound like much of a gift. However, a few minutes of truly being present to another person may be the most precious gift they will receive today