July 15 2012 15th Sunday of the Year (B)
A. The Bible as Guide in Life and Liturgy (Sunday Readings)
First Reading (Amos 7:12-15).
When mention is made of prophets, Christian readers easily think of them as the Jewish spokespersons for God who helped to prepare the way for Christ, or even predicted his coming. Matters are different with regard to the origins and development of the prophetic movement in Israel. Prophets and seers (persons who “see” or were believed to see into the mind and will of the deity) were part of the political and religious life of ancient Israel and its neighbours. Kings and temples had individual or groups of prophets (these latter sometimes called “sons of the prophets”). There were even prophets of the pagan god Baal. A change came about when the God of Israel called certain persons to speak in his name to his people. These had a special experience of God. The prophet Amos stood at the beginning of this movement in Israel. He was called by God in the southern state of Judah to go north to the royal sanctuary of the northern kings of Israel and preach in the royal sanctuary of Bethel that Israel would be severely punished for her neglect of God’s law. The priest Amaziah, in charge of the royal sanctuary, told Amos to return to Judah (possibly for his own safety). Because of the ambiguity of the term prophet, Amos can deny that he was a professional prophet, with a right to payment for his services. He is conscious of his divine call to present God’s word boldly, to prophesy to God’s people. Amos stands at the beginning of a true prophetic movement that will culminate in the mission of John the Baptist (“more than a prophet”) and Jesus, who will have his prophetic mission continue in his Church.
Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 84). The voice of the Lord speaks peace for his people.
Second Reading (Ephesians 1:3-14).
This is the first of a series of Sunday readings from the Letter to the Ephesians, written either personally by Paul or permeated by his mission and teaching. The writer speaks as a Jew who sees the two peoples Jew and non-Jew (gentiles) united as one family in Christ. At the very beginning of this beautiful letter, the writer recalls the dignity of the Christian calling, seen as the realization of a divine plan from before the world was created. This divine plan is described as a mystery, hidden in God throughout history, and made known only by revelation. Jesus told his apostles that they were blessed in that the secrets (mysteries) of the kingdom of God was revealed to them (Luke 8:11), things hidden from the wise and revealed to simple believers (Mat 11:25; Luke 10:21). What the mystery is is spelled out in this beautiful text: The mystery, now revealed when time had run its course in Christ’s coming and the Church established, is that God would bring everything together under Christ, as head, everything in the heavens and everything on earth. By reason of her place as servant of this mystery and mission, the Church, and all believers, must have a God-given confidence in Christ’s ultimate victory.
Gospel (Mark 6:7-13).
In the passage immediately preceding this one (read as last’s Sunday’s reading) Jesus at his rejection in his home town of Nazareth said that a prophet is only despised in his own country and people, thereby implicitly identifying himself as a prophet. Today’s reading tells us how he sent out the Twelve (apostles) to continue his prophetic mission, with his authority and healing power, to preach repentance. Their way of life, with very simple lifestyle, and no show of grandeur, was to be in keeping with their mission. The details regarding clothing, lodging, lack of money and such like mentioned in this text may have held true for some Galilean itinerant preachers, but was by no means that followed by the early preachers of the Gospel, although its very simplicity has inspired later saints and religious orders such as Francis of Assisi and his followers. But in general, the idea behind this text is valid for all time: the Church’s way of life, in its simplicity, should be in keeping with Christ’s message.
B. The Bible in Dialogue with Questions of the Day
The Church a prophetic people
As at the beginnings of the prophetic movement in Israel, occasionally today individuals or groups are spoken of as being prophetic, when what is meant is that they had foresight, or planned ahead. The Church, the people of God, has a prophetic role in a deeper sense, in that they continue to bear witness in the world to the revelation of the mystery of the kingdom of God. The Vatican Council reminds us of this in its document on the Church (paragraph 12): “The holy people of God shares also in Christ’s prophetic office: it spreads abroad a living witness to him, especially by a life of faith and love and by offering to God a sacrifice of praise, the spirit of lips praising his name (see Hebrews 13:15)”. The theme is taken up in the more recent Catechism of the Catholic Church, when speaking of the Church, the people of God. They are a priestly, prophetic, and royal people (paragraphs 783, 785). “Jesus Christ is the one whom the Father anointed with the Holy Spirit and established as priest, prophet, and king. The whole People of God participates in these three offices of Christ and bears the responsibilities for mission and service that flow from them. .. The holy People of God shares also in Christ’s prophetic office, above all in the supernatural sense of faith that belongs to the whole People, lay and clergy, when it unfailingly adheres to this faith . . . once for all delivered to the saints and when it deepens its understanding and becomes Christ’s witness in the midst of this world.” The individual believer and the entire Church, the people of God, can draw inspiration for its prophetic mission from prophets such as Amos, with an awareness of being called through the gift of faith by God to bear witness to Christ by Christian living. They can make themselves aware of the vision of the revelation of the mystery and the dignity of Christian life in Christ so magnificently set before us in the Epistle to the Ephesians. The can also bear in mind how Jesus, after rejection in his home town, sent forth his apostles to preach the presence of the kingdom of God, with a call to repentance. Dialogue with questions of our own day may profitably bear these truths in mind. Such dialogue has very often to do with secular matters, in a world that is becoming increasingly secular, with little place for the divine or the demands made by Christ’s message of the kingdom of God, and the mystery of salvation for humanity it contains. This Christian belief can give a balance in such dialogue.