Fr. Roger J. Landry
Espirito Santo Parish, Fall River, MA
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
July 16, 2000
Am 7:12-15; Eph 1:3-14; Mt 6:7-13
Outline of Homily
I — In today’s readings, we see whom God chooses to proclaim his Word.
A. Amos was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamore trees.
B. Countless other prophets of the OT were unlikely candidates, all proclaiming their unworthiness, either because of their age, or because they were of unclean lips, or for several other reasons. But God chose them to bring his message, and gave them the help and strength to do it.
C. In the NT, we see whom Jesus chooses to send out to proclaim his Gospel and preach a Gospel of repentance.
1) He chooses the Twelve and sent them out, which is how they got the title “apostles” from the Greek word to be sent.
2) We remember who they were, fisherman, tax collectors, and a bunch of other unheralded no-namers. They were men who considered themselves great sinners, like Peter, and basically unworthy initially to associate with Jesus not to mention proclaim his message.
3) But God chose them to bring his message, and gave them the help and strength to do it.
II — In a similar way, God has chosen each one of us here to proclaim the Gospel.
A. This is true, but at times, very few people in the Church recognize this. Some assume it’s only the priests who proclaim, or the priests and the nuns. But every single Christian, from the young person who has just received holy Communion, to the Christian suffering on his or her death bed, has this vocation.
B. The Second Vatican Council in 1962 in its document on the Church taught us very beautifully that every one who is baptized into Christ shares in Christ’s three-fold ministry of priest, king and prophet. Everyone. In other words, by offering up our sacrifices over the course of the day, we share in Christ’s priestly office (which is different from the ordained) priesthood. In governing ourselves, our homes, our passions with prudence and self-control, we share in his kingly office. And by proclaiming the Gospel we share in his prophetic office. Christ himself is the Apostle of the Father, sent from heaven, to proclaim the good news of repentance and freedom from sin and a life of love that is meant to last forever. God chose the prophets to prepare the way for Jesus. Jesus chose his disciples and sent them out to share in his preaching. And they, down to our present day, have sent out all of us to share in that same ministry of announcing to the whole world the message of Jesus.
C. And none of us has an excuse NOT to preach the Gospel.
1) We cannot be any worse candidates than the prophets or the apostles.
a) If we think we’re not educated enough to proclaim the Gospel, we can look at Peter, who was a simple fisherman himself.
b) If we’re too young, we can look at St. John or the prophet Samuel.
c) If we get tongue-tied or too nervous, we can look at the prophet Jeremiah who himself complained of this but God still chose him. We can also turn to the words of Jesus, who assured us that we don’t have to fear what we are to say, because the Holy Spirit will be with us.
d) If we consider ourselves too great sinners, we can turn to Peter, who himself asked the Lord to depart from him because he was a sinful man, or to Paul, who used to KILL Christians for a living before he converted.
2) There’s no excuse we can give that God hasn’t heard before. He’s calling every single one of us to proclaim the Gospel, starting right now. There’s no hiding, no excuses, no exceptions. Each one of us here in this Church this afternoon has the vocation to be a prophet. God is trying to write a new Acts of the Apostles for the Third Millenium, with each of us, whether silently or publicly, playing a starring role.
III — The important question, therefore, is HOW do we proclaim the Word of God.
A. We proclaim the Gospel in the same way Jesus instructed our predecessors, the twelve and then the 72 to preach it: by words and by deeds.
1) First by words. Although our accents in English or Portuguese would be different from their strong Galilean accents, although we might emphasize certain things that they didn’t or vice versa, we have still received the same Gospel from the Lord and are sent out to proclaim it. It is an amazing fact that the same Gospel they heard from Jesus, they were sent out to preach. They preached it, and then sent out others to preach it, who then sent out others, who sent out others, all the way to our own time, when we’re being sent to proclaim it, to the people of our age. They proclaimed not only what they heard from Jesus and then those he sent out, but also how that word of God affected them. We’re called to do the same. To proclaim not just what we’ve heard from those who taught us the faith, but also to reflect on it and to proclaim how we’ve been set free by that same Lord whom we proclaim.
2) The second way we proclaim the Gospel is by deeds. This is perhaps a much more powerful proclamation. If all we were to do was to proclaim by words — no matter how accurate what we taught was — some wouldn’t listen. Moreover, some, who know us and know some of the things we’ve done, would probably accuse us of hypocrisy. When we preach with deeds, we cannot be accused of hypocrisy and our lived proclamation of the Gospel really sinks in.
a) The deeds we’re talking about are acts of love, generosity, kindness, caring, sacrifice done for others. This is the real test about the Gospel we proclaim and these have to be in agreement with the message. When they are, the Gospel is very powerful. Even if we’ve lived a life in the past that hasn’t really been fully in accord with the Gospel, when we start giving of ourselves for others in the name of Christ, even those who might want to call us hypocrites would have to bite their tongue.
b) This is probably the reason why Jesus decided to send out the apostles in the way he did. He sent them out 2×2 so that they would constantly have to learn how to love the one they were traveling with. Love always requires two people, one who loves and one who is loved. He sent them out with no food, no traveling bag, no money, no second tunic, so that they couldn’t possibly have any other motive for proclaiming the Gospel other than because it was the truth that set people free. This was the problem in the first reading. Amasias, the priest of the royal sanctuary of Bethel, tried to stop Amos from preaching his words against the king in the royal precincts, but rather to go to Judah where he could make money as a prophet. Amasias was paid by the king to be the priest there, and, because Amos was upsetting the king with the words of God, he told Amasias to tell him to go away and preach elsewhere. Amasias wasn’t free to proclaim the Gospel to the king because of the hefty salary he was receiving that he didn’t want to give up. Amos was receiving no recompense and he was freer. Still, today, sometimes priests in very wealthy parishes, or some Protestant evangelists on television, don’t proclaim the whole Gospel lest it upset the listeners who support them.
Jesus, in sending out the first apostles, said that it was not to be that way with us. He sent the apostles out poor, so that they would (1) be totally dependent on God working through the goodness of those who love him and (2) therefore totally free from financial worry to proclaim the whole Gospel, even if it is unpopular. We can ask ourselves today if we fear or hesitate proclaiming or, worse, living the Gospel because it might lose us friends, or make the work environment more difficult, or lose us some money.
IV. Concrete ways of living and proclaiming this Gospel
A. We are all called to proclaim it wherever we are sent. In the home, with our wives, kids or even parents. In school with our fellow classmates and even, on occasion, teachers. In work, with our coworkers, employers or employees, customers. On the sportfield. In the supermarket. Wherever we find ourselves.
B. But there are some often neglected vineyards where the Gospel always needs to be proclaimed.
a) The CCD or religious education classroom. This is a great ministry to which we’re called.
b) The bedsides of the elderly, where so often people die in isolation.
c) The priesthood, where vocations really are crucial for us to continue to be able to offer everyone the Eucharist.
C. We finish with the Eucharist. At the end of every Mass, we say, “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” In Latin, the expression is “Ite, missa est,” which is where we get the word “mission.” A loose translation would be “Go, you have been sent on mission.” Just as the apostles came to Jesus, were nourished by his word and his teaching, and then ultimately received his flesh and blood in the Upper Room from which they left, having received the Holy Spirit, to proclaim the Gospel to all the nations — so we come here, to hear the word of God in Sacred Scripture, and receive the Body and Blood of the Lord in Holy Communion, so that we, filled with the Holy Spirit, might then burst open the doors of the Church at the end of Mass and go to proclaim this Gospel, this good news, who is Jesus, out to a world that so desperately needs to encounter Jesus.
D. This is our mission. This is our vocation. We are all called by God to be prophets. And just as God said to Amos, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel,” so he says to each of us, “Go, prophesy to my people here in Fall River.” May God, through this holy Mass, make us faithful to this commission. Amen!