15th Sunday – B

Am 7:12-15, Eph 1:3-14, Mk 6:7-13

The church council met to discuss the pastor’s compensation package for the coming year. After the meeting the chair of council told the pastor: “We are very sorry, Pastor, but we decided that we cannot give you a raise next year.” “But you must give me a raise,” said the pastor. “I am but a poor preacher!” “l know,” the council chair said. “We hear you every Sunday.”

Dear Friends! Today’s readings remind us of our Divine adoption as God’s children and of our call to preach the Good News of Jesus by bearing witness to God’s love, mercy and salvation as revealed through Jesus.

The first reading warns us that our witnessing mission will be rejected, as happened to the Old Testament prophets like Amos.  Amos condemned the cozy lifestyle of priests who supported the king and the rich and ignored the oppression of the poor. The angry chief priest, Amaziah of Bethel in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, told Amos to take his prophesying back to his own country, the Southern Kingdom of Judah, because they did not want to listen to his prophecy in Bethel.  Amos defended his prophetic role with courage, clarifying that it was not his choice but his God’s choice to elevate him from a shepherd and tree dresser to a prophet.

The reading tells us that when Amos was called by God to prophesy to Israel, he was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. That’s two full time jobs.

Whatever we might want to know about the prophet Amos, it is clear that he had plenty to do. And this makes Amos like us. Some of us here have two jobs. An even greater number of us, in one way or another, have our plates full. We work and we also have an array of other responsibilities and goals: driving the kids to baseball games, keeping in touch with friends, caring for an aging parent, finding time for exercise, pursuing continuing education. There is no lack of things in our life that we want or have to do.

We are busy people. So was the prophet Amos. But he was able to discern clues and occurrences in his busy life as the call of the Lord. We would be wise to do the same.

If God is calling us, what does He want us to do? Well St. Paul gives the answer in the second reading…”Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him”.

He calls us ‘to be holy and without blemish before him’. You and I may be busy but do not neglect to stay connected to God all the time. It might mean growing in personal holiness deepening our relationship with God, using all God given gifts.

God continuously calls us… Today’s Gospel tells the story of Jesus’ commissioning of the twelve apostles for their first missionary journey. They are to preach the “Good News” of repentance, forgiveness of sins, liberation and salvation through Jesus.  Just as God sent the prophet Amos to preach repentance to ancient Israel and St. Paul to preach the Good News of salvation to the Gentiles, so Jesus sends forth his followers to proclaim the Good News of God’s Kingdom and to bring healing to those who need it most.

Jesus sends out the twelve on a long and difficult mission. But he tells them they are to take no bag. Now, what sense does that make? Well, it would make a lot of sense if the disciples were traveling today by airplane. Checked luggage can quickly add a sizeable amount to your airline ticket.

But Jesus has a different kind of luggage in mind: not the luggage of clothes and hair dryers and toiletries, but a spiritual luggage that can weigh us down. Now, this luggage comes in a number of different designs, but today I want to offer three of them for your consideration. Jesus is asking us to leave behind the bags of our hurts, our fears, and our dreams.

Clearly Jesus sends us out on a mission of love and service. But he wants us to travel light. What kind of useless burden do you insist on bringing with you? What kind of heavy luggage are you determined to check for your flight? Jesus reminds us that such luggage is unnecessary. He asks us to leave the bags of our hurts, our fears, and our false dreams at home and fly free.

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