The readings for this Sunday talk about the sending out on mission; Amos is sent to Bethel as prophet, and the disciples are sent to announce the reign of God. What nourishment do these readings bring to our lives?
Bible readings Amos 7: 12–15 Psalm 85: 9–14 Ephesians 1: 3–14 Mark 6: 7–13
Look at the instructions that Jesus gives as his disciples set out on the mission! He tells them to carry nothing except a walking stick and sandals. Isn’t that strange! We know too well that we need certain material goods in order to live; we need to eat, to dress and we need shelter, to mention but just some. Similarly, we need some material goods also to be able to carry out the mission. We know too well how in some places pastoral agents are struggling due to lack of material goods necessary for their work. They are looking for support. How then do we understand the instructions that Jesus gives? Doesn’t he appreciate the importance of such material goods?
Instructions in the light of the mission
Certainly, Jesus does not doubt the importance of the material needs, nevertheless, he wants to make it clear to them that the mission that he entrusts them is quite urgent, and it demands that the disciples be ever mobile, available and free. That’s why, on one hand, Jesus warns against whatever may be burdensome for it will only risk preventing the disciples from advancing in their work. And on the other hand, he tells them to carry the walking stick and sandals. Why? These are things that support the walking. So, we can say, Jesus is asking the disciples to give priority to things that will be helpful in their mission and leave behind whatever may be hindering them.
In a way, it’s an invitation to reconsider our priorities. Indeed, many are the things that are necessary in our life, yet, depending on our attitude to them, they may get on our way and thus obstruct us from living truly as disciples of Jesus. In our effort to respond to legitimate needs we may risk forgetting about our mission. So, each one can ask oneself: what are the things that help me to move forward in my life? What are the things that hinder me? And what are those things robbing the place of God in my life? Such discernment is necessary, otherwise, we find ourselves like the people at Bethel. What’s happening there?
Go away from here!
Jesus warns the disciples that it’s not everyone who will readily welcome their message -there will be opposition. The people of his own town refused to believe in him (Last Sunday’s Gospel) and we find similar refusal, in the First Reading, Amos is not accepted as prophet. Let’s see what’s happening in the First Reading.
We are at Bethel, a place of cult established by the king of the northern kingdom of Israel. Why? There was only one temple in Jerusalem where everyone offered sacrifice and payed also the temple tax. That gave some importance and prosperity to the South more than the North. To prevent people of his kingdom from continuing going to the south, king Jeroboam established two centres of worship in the north, Bethel and Dan; and he recruited his priests and prophets. These priests and prophets never spoke up against the injustice in their society, neither did they speak about the misery in which the ordinary people lived. To please the king, apparently, was the only role that these men of God played at Bethel. They had become corrupt. That’s why Amos, a cultivator from the South, was called and sent to go and denounce the injustice in the northern kingdom. But he met vicious reaction more from priests and prophets than from the ordinary people; those who benefited from the corrupt system felt threatened. Go back to your country, they rejected him, there in the South you will do your job as prophet -not here!
That’s the challenge of the prophet. We have a choice, to speak the truth with courage, or to fall into what everyone else is doing. As for Amos, he remains firm in his response to the opposition: I was not a prophet, neither was I the son of a prophet -I was only a herdsman and a tender of sycamore trees. But the Lord took me and said to me, go, you will be my prophet to my people Israel.
How focussed are you?
Even today God is looking at us, but are we free enough to be prophets who speak the truth and denounce the injustice?
The people at Bethel don’t want to be disturbed in their unjust and corrupt practices; and me, am I ready to welcome the word of God, especially when it comes to disturb my inclinations?
Dear sister, dear brother; as Christians are pilgrims ever on the move towards our conversion. Let’s have, as Jesus recommends, the walking stick in our hands and sandals on our feet so that we can resolutely move forward without allowing anything to deter us.
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