15th of the Year, 11 July 21
Today`s scripture readings show how God sends out prophets, preachers, teachers and healers and expects obedience from those whom he chooses!
Amos, a shepherd and dresser of sycamore trees, was charged by God, through Amaziah the priest of Bethel to go back to Judah to earn his living and to prophesy. Amos had gone to Bethel, the royal sanctuary and national temple only to be sent away as a seer or prophet. In fact Amos makes it plain that he was no prophet, until that point, and did not belong to any of the customary brotherhoods of prophets and goes on to say: `…it was the Lord who took me from herding the flock, and the Lord who said, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel,”`. Although a native of Judah he preached between the years 760-755BC in Israel and was one of the so-called 12 minor prophets and referred to in this way because their biblical writings a relatively short. He was an older contemporary of both Isaiah and Hosea and lived in a relatively peaceful time. He speaks of God`s omnipotence, maintains that a good and holy lifestyle is so much more important than rules and regulations of ritual. St. James in his epistle general reflects much of the themes of Amos.
Amos, clearly, prepares the way for the coming of Jesus the Messiah by what we find in today`s passage from chapter 6 of St. Mark`s Gospel recording how Jesus began to send out the Twelve in pairs and it has often been common among those on particular missionary journeys to travel in pairs and with the barest necessities of life thus relying on the hospitality of those to whom they were to minister. But in sending them out he gave them authority most notably over unclean spirits – the fruit of their ministry being the preaching of repentance (or conversion of life), the casting out of many devils and the anointing of the sick with holy oil (a practice continued by priests of the Church to this day, not in any way supplanting the work of doctors and nurses and the healing profession but sharing in their healing work through prayer and the laying on of hands. Notice too how Jesus, in instructing the Twelve, before sending them out, says `And if any place does not welcome you and people refuse to listen to you, as you walk away shake off the dust from under your feet as a sign to them.` The action of shaking off the dust from one`s feet is not to be seen as a violent reprisal but rather as a sign having the function of provoking thought among the local people and is complementary to the instruction to stay at the house where there is a welcome – not looking around to compare hospitality!
One of the most rewarding parts that I find in the priestly ministry is the ministry to the sick and housebound. I was reminded of the importance of this ministry, as I was reading through and pondering the commission in the ordination service on the anniversary of my ordination as a priest on 2nd July. It is a great reminder that priests and bishops today, in spite of our weaknesses and failures, are given the same commission as Jesus gave to his Apostles – and even more importantly, unworthy as we are, the freely given graces of Almighty God and the gift of His Holy Spirit.
The 11th July, when it is NOT a Sunday as this year, is the Feast of St. Benedict known as the Father of Western Monasticism though he was, as far as we know, was never ordained! It is generally assumed that monks and nuns and friars and sisters have three life vows: Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. The Benedictine version is a touch different in emphasis: Stability, Obedience and Conversion of Life. Stability meaning belonging to one Monastic Household (not travelling about like mendicant friars or sisters, obedience to the Abbot who, as it were stands to represent Christ and Conversion of Life which embraces seeking to become more like Jesus in daily living and thus embracing also chastity and poverty. Benedict lived from AD 480 to AD541. He came from a minor noble family from Norcia in Italy and went to study I Rome where he was shocked by the way of ife of so many and so withdrew to the Simbruini mountains becoming a hermit for three years at
Subiaco. His way of life attracted others and eventually he founded the great Abbey of Monte Cassino where he wrote his Rule for monks. It is a rule that is immensely practical as well as spiritual and is centred upon waiting upon God in prayer and, above all, listening to what God has to say through prayerful obedience. The Benedictine Life has become a worldwide family of Monasteries for men and women both Catholic and Anglican and with a sense of vocation.
You are probably thinking that I am wandering all over the place – and in a sense I am but I`m doing so in order to point out that each and every one of us is called by God and sent out on the mission of proclaiming the Good News of the Saving Love and Sacrifice of Jesus our Lord and God. Each of us called to exercise our apostleship in a unique way for as St. Paul reminded us in chapter 1 of his letter to the Ephesians, verses 3 to 14 of which we heard a little while ago: “Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings of heaven in Christ. Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence, determining that we should become his adopted sons (and daughters) through Jesus Christ for his own kind purposes,……”
Let us rejoice that we are each of us called – and called to call!