Sunday Scripture Readings

FIFTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, JULY 13 Amos 7:12-15; Psalm 85; Ephesians 1:3-10; Mark 6:7-13 OUR GOOD NEWS: We are all called to a mutual prophetic ministry that summons and empowers others. In four brief verses of our first reading we encounter a classic confrontation between two professedly religious persons holding diametrically opposed views on religion. The prophet Amos had lived contentedly in rural Tekoa, a southern country gentleman tending cattle and orchards. Unexpectedly, God called him to prophecy in the northern kingdom of Israel. Amos responded promptly, leaving home, family and occupation to journey north. There he urgently preached individual and national repentance in the face of imminent divine judgment. Amaziah, by contrast, enjoyed high ecclesiastical office as priest-in-charge of Bethel, a major religious shrine serving the northern kingdom. The brief dialogue in this selection reveals each person’s true character. Amaziah rudely ordered his adversary out of the country. He used the term "visionary," an outmoded way to describe prophets known for eccentric behavior rather than lofty message. Amos, he presumed, prophesied solely for the money — "Make your living in your own country, not here!" With unconscious candor he identified the sanctuary as belonging to, and serving the interests of, the king rather than God. In his narrow-minded, secularists’ view, God’s urgent appeal to escape destruction by practicing social justice was perverted into human words of sedition and treason. Amos’ honest response revealed his deep religious commitment. Prophet neither by trade nor training nor even choice, he nonetheless permitted himself to be totally mastered by God’s imperious will. The Lord "took" him forcibly from his accustomed lifestyle, commanding this ordinary person to speak in His name without preparation, ministering to "my people Israel." Applying this reading to our own situation, we note, first, that prophets include all who speak on behalf of God, making His will concrete and specific (for example, parent to child, but also child to parent). Rather than self-serving as a means to power and money, prophetically serving God and His Church at times can be painfully demanding, calling for personal sacrifice including reputation. Moreover, God is often most effective working through reluctant prophets. In contrast to the prophet’s spurned denunciation, today’s psalm represents a prophetic oracle (pronouncement) that comforts rather than summons to repentance, a word eagerly accepted rather than rejected. Moreover, this prophetic word not only commands but also inspires, empowering our answering obedience. It emphasizes that true peace, happiness and harmony come from doing everything God’s way. "Near indeed is His salvation to those who fear Him, glory dwelling in our land." The second stanza develops the effects of divine "glory" in our midst, visible blessings bringing happiness to individual and community. God is personified as servant-messengers. "Kindness" (persistent graciousness) and "truth" (abiding goodness) bump into each other on our streets, in our neighborhood. "Justice" and "peace," the way things ought to be, greet each other with a "kiss" (our handshake). How fortunate are we to live where goodness "springs up" from the ground like flowers, "look(s) down" like bright sunlight!

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