July 15, 2018 Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Fr Jim Miller

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading 1 AM 7:12-15

 Responsorial Psalm PS 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14

  1. (8) Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

Reading 2 EPH 1:3-14 OR 1:3-10

  Alleluia  CF. EPH 1:17-18

  1. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 6:7-13

Homily—July 14 & 15, 2018

             Our first reading opens as Amaziah the priest lets Amos know he is fed up with him and his prophetic message.  When Amaziah tells Amos to go back to where he came from, the command was probably both an insult and a warning.  According to Amaziah, Amos has no business in his territory because it belongs to the king and his temple.   They are not going to listen to the God of Israel.  

We might focus on the challenge of being prophets ourselves.  A prophet is simply one who speaks for God, who proclaims that truth, especially when that truth is being ignored or violated in society.

At our baptism, we were given a share in the mission of Christ as priest, prophet and king.  In Numbers 11:29, Moses exclaims, “If only all the people of the Lord were prophets!  If only the Lord would bestow his spirit on them!”  We all received the Holy Spirit in baptism and the fullness of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation so we are called to speak for God.  What does it mean for us to be prophets?  

As was the case with the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures, it often means speaking out about injustices in society.  Prophets spoke up for orphans and widows and immigrants.  They chastised the rich for ignoring the needs of the poor.  They challenged kings and religious leaders who were not doing the will of God.  

Today we have prophets in the MeToo movement who call out those who abuse women .   We have those in the Right to Life movement who remind us that life must be protected from conception until a natural death.  We are prophets when we pray in public.  What is your mission?   Do you have the courage to witness and share your faith?

Our attention to God’s word in our daily lives must coincide with our efforts to proclaim God’s message at the liturgy.  We must speak the truth at all times, as Paul reminds us, whether convenient or inconvenient.

In the Gospel the Twelve are sent out two by two.   One reason would be for companionship and the other would be for protection.   To be walking the roads alone back then was a dangerous undertaking.   They were told to travel light since their internship was not to last a long time.   Scripture scholar and Jesuit Fr. Silvano Fausti comments on the disciples’ mission saying that they were sent without anything because when we have things, that is what we think we can give.  When we have nothing in our hands or pack, we can only give what comes from inside us.

Recently I heard about the seminarians helping some of the priests to move to their new assignments and when asked what they learned was not to accumulate too much.   In my first move I was able to put everything in my car.   In my second move I put everything in my car and a pickup.   When I moved to Nativity I had everything in my car and two pickups and a trailer!

Travelers at that time expected to encounter people full of hospitality in the small villages of extended families.   As food was prepared there was time to get to know each other.  They were to stay in the first home in which they received hospitality—not trying to move to a bigger house or one with better food!  Like Jesus who could work wonders for people who accepted his message, they were to rely on those who received them.  If no one offered hospitality they could take off their sandals and clap them together so as not to allow any of their dust to stay with them.

            Mark uses the phrase “unclean spirits” more than any other biblical writer.   Many in Jesus’ day feared that evil spirits had begun to creep into Israel and take possession of many.  The possible reasons for this included corruption of the Temple and its priests, increased sinfulness among ordinary Israelites, the presence of pagan troops on Israelite soil and the lack of a Davidic king.  Whatever the causes, in Mark’s mind the presence of so many unclean spirits suggested a diminishment of God’s presence in Israel.  What about today?  What about here?

            For Mark, the apostles’ message of repentance was linked to their ministry of deliverance.  Unclean spirits manifested themselves not only as illnesses of body and mind but also as compulsive vices like cruelty, greed or pride.  These unclean things can distort and even completely hinder encounters with God’s presence.  The apostles’ message included a call to repentance as a way of driving away such obstructive spiritual forces.  Repentance is a determined, focused action: to start over, to turn around, to change direction, to rethink one’s attitude and perspective.

            We recognize unclean spirits today not through the illnesses they cause but through the minds they enrapture.   Suicide, addiction, ethical confusion and a general sense of hopelessness are just a few of the signs that unclean spirits prowl our world.  Through acts of mercy and love, Christ’s disciples restore God’s active presence and liberate their brothers and sisters from the unclean things that keep them bound.  What acts of mercy and love are you going to accomplish this week?