Sunday Scripture: Answering the call
By Terrance Callan
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Amos 7:12-15; Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6:7-13
Invitations summon us to action and demand a response. As Christians we have received an invitation from God through Jesus. God has invited us to continue the work of Jesus by bringing the word of God to the world.
The reading from the Gospel according to Mark tells how Jesus sent the Twelve out, two by two, to extend the scope of His own mission. Just as Jesus himself preached repentance, cast out demons and cured the sick, so He sent the Twelve to do the same. And He told them to take nothing for the journey except a walking stick and sandals — “no food, no sack, no money in their belts,” no second tunic. These words of Jesus moved St. Francis of Assisi to embrace poverty as he followed Jesus.
In the reading from the Book of the Prophet Amos, Amos explains how he was sent by God. Amos had come from Tekoa in the southern kingdom of Judah to Bethel in the northern kingdom of Israel, to pronounce God’s judgment on Israel and its king Jeroboam. Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, told Amos to return to Judah and earn his bread by prophesying there. Amaziah assumed that Amos was a professional prophet who hoped to support himself by prophesying at Bethel. Amos replied that he was not a professional prophet; he was a shepherd and dresser of sycamores. He became a prophet only because God sent him to deliver a message to Israel and its king. We are encouraged to see the mission of the Twelve as a parallel to this.
The reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians is a prayer of praise with which the letter begins. The prayer praises God for what God has accomplished in Jesus. In this way the prayer presents the message that followers of Jesus proclaim to the world.
The prayer praises God for blessing “us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens.” And the prayer goes on to say that this is the execution of a design formed before creation — God “chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world.” But human beings only realized that this was God’s plan when He carried it out in Jesus. By means of our faith in Jesus, God “has made known to us the mystery of His will in accord with his favor that He set forth in Him as a plan for the fullness of times.”
The prayer also spells out what is meant by every spiritual blessing in the heavens. First, it means that in Christ “we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of transgressions.” Thus we are “holy and without blemish,” having become adopted children of God through Christ. Second, it means God’s summing up “all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth.” In particular this refers to the unification of Jews and Gentiles in Christ: Jews were the first to hope in Christ; but in Christ the Gentiles too were chosen. Finally, it means the gift of the Holy Spirit, “the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory.” It is the presence of the Holy Spirit in our midst that assures us that what has been begun in us will be completed.
This is the message that followers of Jesus brought to the world after His death and resurrection. It is the message that we continue to bring if we accept the invitation to do so.
Callan is a faculty member at the Atheneaum of Ohio.