The Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time [B]
Amos 7:12-15 + Ephesians 1:3-14 + Mark 6:7-13
July 11, 2021
“In Him we also were chosen ….”
If you had to pick two words to summarize today’s Scripture passages, the words “foundation” and “rejection” would be good choices. Both are meant to be part of the Christian’s life.
The foundation upon which every Christian builds his or her life is, of course, Jesus Christ. Christ is the subject of Sunday’s Second Reading.
All that you are as a Christian is in Christ. Saint Paul proclaims this in the very first sentence: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ …”. Later in the same first sentence Paul explains that the Father “chose us in Him”—that is, in Christ—“to be holy and without blemish before Him.” Paul begins the second sentence by declaring that “In love [the Father] destined us for adoption to Himself through Jesus Christ ….” So it goes throughout this passage: Paul stresses over and over how all that you are and are called to be as a Christian is found in Christ.
That includes the call to be a prophet. This is a call that is part and parcel of your reception of baptism. No matter whether He later called you to Holy Orders or Holy Matrimony or consecrated life (or to none of these three), if you were baptized, then on the day of your baptism you were made a prophet by the Father in Christ.
Many people in our day and age, unfortunately, don’t think that the lay faithful within the Church are called to exercise the role of prophet. So consider what the role of the Christian prophet entails. Some think of a prophet as being like a fortune-teller with a crystal ball. But that’s a mistaken idea. The Christian prophet is not so much concerned about the future as about the past.
If there’s one word that sums up the message that a prophet delivers, it’s the word “fidelity”. The prophet calls God’s people to fidelity: or more precisely, the prophet calls God’s people back to fidelity. The prophet reminds God’s people of the promises that they made with God, and then calls them back to fidelity to their word. The prophet calls God’s people to integrity between their past promises and their actions in the present day. To the extent that the prophet speaks about the future, it’s in order to explain to God’s people the consequences of infidelity.
In today’s Gospel Reading, Jesus sends the Twelve on their first mission. Jesus is not sending the Twelve out to preach about the saving death and Resurrection of Jesus because those events haven’t happened yet. Instead, this mission is preparatory.
This early mission is about preaching repentance. Jesus is very clear in explaining to the Twelve that this won’t be easy. He offers only two sentences of explanation about how the Twelve ought to go about this mission. As Jesus says these words, you and I ought to think of Jesus as saying these words to us who see and hear falsehood being promoted as truth within civil society. Jesus says plainly: “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave. Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.”
In our own day, these words of Jesus apply not only to those who preach at pulpits. After all, a preacher is called by God to preach from the sanctuary: as a consequence, he can only preach to as many people as there are in the church building. This is the way that God designed His holy Catholic Church. Within the Body of Christ, the message of the Gospel that is preached from the pulpit is meant to be carried out from the church building and into the world by those lay persons participating in the Sacred Liturgy.
You have been called to be a prophet, even if in a different manner than the one who is ordained to preach. Your call as a baptized Christian is to proclaim the Truth to those out in the world, and this obviously involves a risk of rejection. That’s the rejection that Amos and the other Old Testament prophets faced, and that’s the rejection that Jesus has spoken about in today’s Gospel Reading and accepted as the price of His Self-offering on Calvary.