Homily for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday, July 15th, 2018:
Fr. Scott Karnik
There are two important words in today’s readings. One is “took,” from the prophet Amos. The other is “send.” Those two words have a direct effect on Amos and the 12 Apostles.
In Amos, the priest Amaziah tells Amos to leave Israel and return to Judah, to prophesy there. Amos answers Amaziah by giving a biographical sketch of himself. Amos says, “I am no prophet nor in a company of prophets. I am a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores.” Then Amos says, “…and the Lord took me from following the flock and the Lord said to me, ‘go, prophesy to my people Israel.” Amos uses the word “took.” In Hebrew, the word “took” means God makes in a person’s life an abrupt and radical shift to another way of life. Amos accepted God’s call. Amos left Judah and went to Israel to prophesy. Specifically, Amos prophesied to re-animate and to improve the ancient office of prophet. Amos obeyed and did it. Amos rejected the degenerate form of priesthood and prophets that Amaziah had practiced. God “took” Amos, to do something very good, and Amos did it.
In today’s gospel reading from St. Mark, Chapter 6, Jesus has personally selected His disciples. Jesus selects 12 from this group to accompany Him. Jesus tutors the Twelve. They watch Jesus heal and exorcise. They are now prepared to be Apostles, “ones who are sent out.” Jesus “sends” His Twelve Apostles to preach repentance to the people. Jesus also does something to give their message credibility. Jesus gives His Twelve Apostles authority over unclean spirits. This is a special power.
These Twelve Apostles whom Jesus “sends” end up becoming directly associated with Jesus’s personal ministry. They preach repentance, exorcise demons, and anoint with oil many who were sick and healed them.
Jesus has also given them special instructions for this two-by-two mission. They are to take nothing for the journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; they could wear sandals but not a second tunic. Jesus gives these instructions to those He will send on His Mission so that they will be totally dependent on God and totally free to anoint the sick and cure them, to exorcise demons, and preach repentance. The early church is to be agile, fast, nimble, and totally dependent on God’s care. The Twelve who are sent are to be completely detached from material or personal considerations and they are to trust entirely God’s providence. These Twelve “sent” Apostles are signs to the people by being so dependent on God’s providence. They are consecrated to God and the importance of their mission becomes clearer to the public so that more souls can be won to Jesus.
There is one more thing. The proclamation of the message of repentance is the goal of their mission. So is the driving out of demons and anointing the sick to cure them. Those tasks emphasize the spiritual character of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Their preaching of the kingdom is a preparation for that. The missions of these Apostles who were dispatched in pairs become small-scale versions of Jesus’s own ministry. For your information, the anointing of oil in Mark 6:13 is the scriptural basis for the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, or Extreme Unction. Oil was used to dress wounds back in the day. This anointing does much more.
“Took” and “sent” are two essential acts God has done to enable people He has personally selected to preach His message of repentance. His message of repentance sounds like this: From the prayer before the Scripture readings it says “Oh God, who show the light of your truth to those who go astray,…” The Offertory prayer will say “Look upon the offerings of the Church, Oh Lord,…and grant that, when consumed by those who believe, they may bring ever greater holiness.” And the Postcommunion prayer will say “…we pray, Oh Lord, that, by our participation in this mystery, its saving effects upon us may grow.” If a Catholic man here today is considering being a priest, this is your job description. If a Catholic woman here today is considering being a nun, this is going to be your job description too. Do not be afraid. Jesus is with you. The Apostles are to preach to the people in the buildup to the ultimate revelation of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, on the Cross and resurrected three days later.
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