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Prophets

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

The prophet Amos, from whose book we have heard a fragment in the first reading proclaimed this Sunday, denounces with strong words social injustice, dishonesty in public life and business, idolatry and generally the neglect of God to seek refuge in material goods and human calculations.

His message is very current. It rings especially true in our times which demand from us, Christians, a bold and consistent witness of Christian life.

Amos was not a professional prophet. That was not his trade. He is not looking at his own convenience or seeking personal gain. Rather, he is responding to a call, a loving invitation from God. So must we, who by virtue of our Baptism have been configured to Christ and made participants of his prophetic mission, live according to the baptismal vocation we have received. It is not an occupation or a function but a response to the love of God we have found in Christ. It is who we are.

Reflecting on the readings for this Sunday, Pope Benedict pointed out in 2012 that “Jesus wants to involve the Twelve in his action from the outset: it is a sort of “apprenticeship” with a view to the great responsibility that awaited them. The fact that Jesus calls certain disciples to collaborate directly in his mission demonstrates one aspect of his love, namely, he does not spurn the help that other people can contribute to his work; he knows their limitations, their weaknesses, but bears no contempt for them. On the contrary Jesus confers on them the dignity of being his envoys. He sends them out two by two and gives them instructions which the Evangelist sums up in a few sentences. The first concerns the spirit of detachment: the Apostles must not be attached to money or to other comforts. Then Jesus warns the disciples that they will not always receive a favorable welcome. Sometimes they will be rejected; they might even be persecuted. However, this must not frighten them: they must speak in Jesus’ name and preach the Kingdom of God without being worried about whether or not they will succeed. Succeed — its success must be left to God.

The First Reading presents us with the same perspective, showing us that all too often God’s messengers are not well received. This is the case of the Prophet Amos whom God sent to prophesy in the Sanctuary at Bethel, a sanctuary of the Kingdom of Israel. Amos preached very energetically against injustices, denouncing in particular the abuses of kings and notables, abuses of power that offend the Lord and nullify acts of worship. Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, therefore ordered Amos to leave. Amos answered that it was not he who chose this mission but that the Lord had made him a prophet and sent him to this very place in the Kingdom of Israel. Therefore, whether he was accepted or rejected, he would continue to prophesy, preaching whatever God told him and not what men wished to hear. And this has continued to be the Church’s mandate: she does not preach what the powerful wish to hear. Her criterion is truth and justice even if it is unpopular and against human power.

Likewise in the Gospel Jesus warns the Twelve that in some places they may be rejected. Should this be the case, they are to go elsewhere, having shaken the dust from their feet in public. This sign expresses detachment in two senses: moral detachment — as if to say it is you who have refused the proclamation offered to you — and material detachment. We did not seek and do not want anything for ourselves.

The other very important instruction in the Gospel passage is that the Twelve must not be content with preaching conversion. They must accompany their preaching, in accordance with Jesus’ instructions and example, with care for the sick, with caring for those who are sick in body and in spirit. It speaks of the healing of illnesses and also of driving out demons, that is, of purifying the human mind, cleansing, cleansing the eyes of the soul that are clouded by ideologies and hence cannot see God, cannot see truth and justice. This twofold corporal and spiritual healing is always the mandate of Christ’s disciples. Hence the apostolic mission must always include the two aspects of preaching God’s word and of showing his goodness in gestures of charity, service and dedication…

The Lord sows his gifts by the handful, calls people to follow him and to extend his mission in our day. Here too there is a need for a new evangelization, and for this reason I propose that you live intensely the Year of Faith that will begin in October, 50 years after the opening of the Second Vatican Council. The Council documents contain an enormous wealth for the formation of the new Christian generations, for the formation of our consciences. Consequently, read it, read the Catechism of the Catholic Church and thereby rediscover the beauty of being Christian, of being Church, of living the great “we” that Jesus formed around him in order to evangelize the world. Be the “we” of the Church, never closed, but ever open and reaching out to proclaim the Gospel…

Stay firm in the faith, rooted in Christ through the Word and the Eucharist; be people who pray, in order to remain linked for ever to Christ, like branches to the vine. At the same time go out, take his message to all, especially the lowly, the poor and the suffering. In every community love one another; do not be divided but live as brothers and sisters so that the world may believe that Jesus is alive in his Church and that the Kingdom of God is at hand.”

Fr. Roberto M. Cid