15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 12, 2015
If you sit in a barbershop, or enjoy an early morning cup of coffee in a local diner, or nurse a beer in a neighborhood bar, chances are fairly good that you are going to hear some pretty sensible, plain English suggestions…peppered with some colorful “expletives,” on how our leaders should be governing the country, or G.M., or even our Church. Now, just for fun, imagine these same people in their “everyday clothes,” standing before a joint session of Congress, or addressing the Board of Directors in an executive conference room, or sitting in front of Pope Francis in his office in the Vatican. If you play this little game, you will, perhaps, better understand our First Reading from the Prophet Amos.
A most unlikely and seemingly ill-prepared “common person,” using the most coarse, everyday language, maybe even employing a few colorful expletives for emphasis, stood in front of a corrupt, arrogant, and all-powerful ruler with a message from God. Of course, the message made perfect sense. It was God’s Word. It was a call to govern in justice and peace…a Divine directive to treat each and every person with respect, charity, and love. But, the messenger was so unlikely, and the Message so totally contrary to the will and ways of the corrupt ruler…well, continue to use your imagination and picture the reception that Amos received.
There appears to be no warm welcome in high places for God’s prophets (except I believe that Pope Francis would say: Are you comfortable in that chair? Would you like a glass of water? Of course you’ll stay for dinner!) There certainly was no warm welcome for Amos…just as there was no warm welcome from the “higher-ups” for Jesus. Yet, just like Jesus, Amos pushed forward with his mission and ministry, as did the Disciples whom Jesus sent out two by two, without any supplies or provisions. The disciples, however, returned excited, fulfilled, cared for, and feeling that their mission was an overwhelming success. This week’s Gospel teaches us that there are eager audiences out there, hungry to hear God’s Word, and open to God’s will and God’s ways.
This brings us to our Second Reading from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians…THE MESSAGE! What we hear is essentially an ancient Christian hymn. We might not sing these exact words in our churches today, because the language is not easy on the modern ear. In other words, the Reading isn’t exactly “plain English.” Nevertheless, the message is for all times and all people. What we hear is, essentially, a list of the blessing that God has bestowed on us and a call to people of faith to share the gifts as well as the Good News! If you want a more detailed version, in more contemporary language…read Pope Francis’s recent encyclical…Laudato Si. Written to all people of planet earth, it has already been received by many of the powerful, ambitious, materialistic leaders…people in a position to bring about immediate change…in the same way that the corrupt and heartless leader of ancient Bethel received God’s message spoken by Amos.
The Holy Father cautions that we have come to see ourselves as her (Mother Earth) lords and masters entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms evident in the soil, in the water, in the air, and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor. And it is the poor who suffer most from this “global environmental deterioration” caused in large part by greed and a total disregard for human suffering. This is not a message that goes over well in “high places.”
Still, there are good and faithful people sitting in barbershops, local diners…and YES, even in neighborhood taverns who are hungry to hear God’s Word and are open to God’s will and God’s Way. In the coming week, MAYBE YOU are the prophet God is sending. MAYBE YOU are the Disciple Jesus calls upon. MAYBE YOU are the Christian in the world inspired by the Holy Spirit to offer a message of repentance, healing, reconciliation, justice, charity, and love…even if it means you might be ridiculed for doing God’s work. MAYBE YOU are the one who can somehow make a real difference.