Father Donald Senior, CP

July 11: 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 7, 2021

All are called

Am 7:12-15; Ps 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14; Eph 1:3-14; Mk 6:7-13

One of the defining moments of the Second Vatican Council came with the introduction of the preparatory document on the church. The commission that had prepared the agenda months ahead presented a familiar outline for talking about the church, moving down the line, beginning with the roles of the pope and the bishops, then the rest of the clergy and religious and finally the laity. 

But the assembled bishops were in a different mood and this schema was put aside for a more radical — and accurate — way of describing the church. Coming first was God’s “universal call to holiness” to all of God’s people together, without consideration at the outset for the various roles within the church. Only subsequently did this declaration on the life of the church turn to various roles within the church’s governance. 

First and foremost, we are all in this together, lay men and women, ordained bishops, priests and deacons, religious men and women and everything in between. (Regarding the fundamental inclusion of the laity, long ago the now-canonized John Henry Newman remarked that “the church would look foolish without the laity.”)

This important emphasis on our common call to holiness, no matter what our role in the church might be, is reflected in the Scripture readings assigned for this Sunday.

The first reading is from the prophet Amos. A fierce defender of the poor, Amos did not seem to have the pedigree to be a prophet. This was noted by one of the priests serving at the ancient shrine of Bethel who told him, “Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah” and “never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is a king’s sanctuary and a royal temple.” 

Amos himself, like so many of those called by God, did not make any claims for himself: “I was no prophet, nor have I belonged to a company of prophets; I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores.” But, Amos declares, “The Lord took me from following the flock, and said, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’”

The second reading is from the eloquent letter to the Ephesians and it, too, reflects on our Christian call to holiness. It cites a beautiful notion that appears several times in the call of the prophets in the Old Testament and is cited by Paul the apostle himself in reflecting on his own vocation, namely, that God chooses us “before the foundation of the world” and “before we were knitted together in our mother’s womb.” 

The author of Ephesians goes on to affirm that our very existence as human beings reveals that we were chosen by God “so that we might exist for the praise of his glory.” As a child of God, no human being is expendable, but exists to give glory to God.

This focus on the vocation of the Christian is prompted by the selection today from Mark’s Gospel. In this dramatic scene, Jesus summons the apostles and sends them out on mission “two by two.”

By this time in Mark’s narrative, his disciples have witnessed Jesus’ remarkable mission of healing, confronting the powers of death and showing compassion for those on the margins. We remember the cleansing of the leper, the healing of the woman with the hemorrhage, the restoration of life to the little daughter of Jairus and the granting of freedom to the man trapped in the tombs in Gadara as a rolling list of Jesus’ urgent mission to heal and restore human life.

Now Jesus would empower his disciples to do the same. Mark’s Gospel is noted for its unvarnished portrayal of Jesus’ disciples. They make a lot of mistakes and have a hard time understanding Jesus’ teaching, but they are called anyway to follow him and to share in his mission. The final line notes that “they anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.”

The readings this Sunday remind us that we were fashioned by God for a purpose, that we have dignity as daughters and sons of God. And that in every opportunity given to us, no matter how small, we are to be healers as Jesus himself was.



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