The 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time [B]

The Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time [B]
Am 7:12-15  +  Eph 1:3-14  +  Mk 6:7-13
July 15, 2018

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two.

Jesus’ two-fold action of summoning and sending in today’s Gospel passage is based on the literal meaning of the word “apostle”, which means “one who is sent”.  But today’s summoning and sending in chapter 6 of St. Mark’s Gospel account is different from a second apostolic mission on which these men will be sent in the final chapter of Mark, where only eleven apostles remain.

The key distinction is what the Twelve here are sent to do.  This is a preparatory mission:  to preach repentance, drive out demons, and anoint and cure the sick.  Here the Twelve turn people around from the negative, to prepare them to receive the positive.  Their mission is akin to that of St. John the Baptist:  to prepare for someone greater yet to come.

In the final chapter of Mark, the apostles are sent to accomplish something radically different.  They are sent not just to the sick, and not just within the Holy Land, but “to the whole world”.  They are sent not to preach repentance, but to “proclaim the Gospel” [16:15].

For each of us, in the on-going conforming of our lives to Christ, we need to listen and be receptive to both of these missions:  turning away from sins, in order to live the Gospel.  However, since today’s Gospel passage focuses on the first mission, dwell on its meaning.  It’s highlighted in today’s First Reading from the Book of the Prophet Amos.

Each Christian must participate in this first mission from two perspectives.  Each is on the receiving end of this mission, as well as on the giving end.  In other words, each Christian has repentance preached to him, and each must preach repentance to others.  The latter is perhaps the more difficult.

It’s because of his or her baptism that each Christian shares in the three roles that Jesus exercised during His public ministry, and which He exercises now from Heaven.  These are the roles of priest, prophet, and king/shepherd.  The role of prophet is preparatory:  that is, each Christian shares in Jesus’ prophetic mission so as to prepare for Jesus’ priestly and kingly missions.

As a prophet, each Christian is called to speak out against things that are evil.  This is the role of the prophet.  This is what we hear Amos doing in the First Reading, even though he is not sure he wants to.  Yet in the First Reading we hear something else characteristic of our discipleship.  Not only do we often not want to speak the truth.  Often, others don’t want us to speak the truth.  Not only was the prophet Amos not accepted.  He was officially chased out of the country.

As he was being rejected, he made statements that we ourselves sometimes offer for not speaking up against evil.  He proclaimed that he had never received any formal training as a prophet.  He didn’t know for sure how to speak to others.  He didn’t know what exactly God might have to say to them.  Amos’ call is like that of the apostles to whom Jesus is speaking in today’s Gospel passage.  Neither these apostles nor Amos wished for or chose such an assignment.  They, as we, are simply placed on the path and told:  “Go, prophesy to my people”.