July 14, 2024 – The Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time [Year B]

By Fr. Matt Siegman

As Amos is cast out of Bethel in the first reading this week, he says, “I was no prophet, nor have I belonged to a company of prophets; I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. The LORD took me from following the flock, and said to me, Go, prophesy to my people Israel.” Similarly, in the Gospel, our Lord gave the apostles the power to drive out evil and to anoint and heal the sick and then sent them out in pairs. They were to bring nothing with them except for the message of Christ. I wonder what Amos and the apostles thought when they were sent out on these missions, because none of these men appeared to have what was needed to be a prophet, and I suspect that they knew it. Amos was a shepherd and sycamore farmer, and the apostles came from many backgrounds: fishermen, tax collectors, religious zealots, you name it. Nevertheless, they were empowered by God to preach his message and sent out.

One of questions we should ask when we read scripture is, “what is God saying to me through this?” When I read this Sunday’s readings, I can’t help thinking of the end of St. Matthew’s Gospel. Christ’s last words on this earth before ascending to Heaven were, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt 28:18-20) In this Great Commission the disciples of Christ, which includes every Christian, are sent on a mission to preach the Good News of the Gospel and to make disciples of Christ. He sends us. Like Amos and the apostles, many of us do not fit the traditional mold of preacher or missionary. That isn’t as much of a concern as we might think: Our Lord will never send us out without giving us everything we need.

While we do need words to preach the Gospel, that isn’t the first step in bring Christ to the world. The apostles were sent out with nearly nothing, at least in earthly terms. They reached people through the witness of their lives and through their good works. They relied on God for all that they needed. They resisted evil and helped those afflicted by it. They helped the sick. They preached repentance to those who would listen. There is nothing stopping us from doing these same things. We bear witness to Christ when we rely on God and live holy, simple lives. We bear witness to Christ when we say “no” to the evil temptations of the society that surrounds us. This Christian life of witness is not an easy life, but it is a fulfilled life, because it is full of the goodness of God. When people see someone truly living the Christian life, they will notice, and they will react. We will be rejected by some, or even many, people, in which case we shake the dust off our sandals, as the apostles did. Others, though, will be drawn to us, because they will want to know what it is that is different about us.

What do we say to these people? We can start with what we hear in the second reading, from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. It is a superb summary of the Gospel. We were chosen “before the foundation of the world” to receive “every spiritual blessing in the heavens.” We were chosen to become adopted sons and daughters of our Father in Heaven. Jesus Christ is the one who made this possible. Jesus came to redeem us through his blood on the Cross, to forgive our sins, and to restore what was lost when sin came into the world. He came to tell us that our Father has had a plan to save us all along and that he sent his holy Spirit amongst us to show us the way to salvation.

In the readings this Sunday, we are reminded of our prophetic mission to bring the Gospel to all the world. All should hear this Good News: that God sent his Son to save us and to offer us life without end.