Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 11, 2021 Cycle B
by Rev. Jose Maria de Sousa Alvim Calado Cortes, F.S.C.E., Chaplain,
Saint John Paul II National Shrine
Sunday Reading Meditations
“[…] so that we might exist for the praise of his glory (Eph 1:12).”
Why do we exist? We exist to praise God, “for the praise of his glory,” as Saint Paul says. We gather here to celebrate the first day of the week, the day of the resurrection, to give glory to God, to praise him because he is good, because his mercy endures forever, because his glory is without end, “so that we might exist for the praise of his glory.”
The Holy Spirit, as Saint Paul says, is a great promise. We were “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the first installment of our inheritance.” May the Holy Spirit constantly renew his presence in our hearts, and grant us the grace and knowledge of God’s glory.
Today’s readings help us understand what the Church is and the Christian community it is based upon.
At the time of the prophet Amos, there were many professional prophets for whom prophecy was a livelihood and career. There were even companies of prophets. Amos says that he was not a professional prophet. His job was to look after livestock, a herdsman, not a religious professional. Amos had never thought of becoming a prophet. However, one day God called him and sent him to prophesy, to announce his Word to a people who were forgetting their covenant with the Lord. As Amos says in today’s first reading, “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.’”
Amos, clearly understood that he had been called and sent. What he was doing was in response to God’s call, and not to accomplish a personal project.
In the same way, the Twelve were called by Jesus. They left their former pursuits to follow the Master. Jesus first called them to be with him and then sent them into the world.
The first thing, the most important thing, is to be with Jesus, to let him be the center and fill every void in our hearts. Whatever we do without putting Christ in the first place is sterile, even religious or pious works.
The origin of the Church is in God. It is not a human association. We are together because we were called together. It is God’s call that creates the Christian community. Saint Paul says that we were chosen: “He chose us in him, before the foundation of the world.”
As the Church does not originate in itself, it is also not an end in itself. The Church exists for the world. Its end is its mission. The Church exists in order to prophesy in the world. What does this mean? We find the answer in the Gospel: “So they [the Apostles] went off and preached repentance. The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them” (Mk 6:12:13). The Church’s mission is first to invite to conversion, second to deliver from evil and third to heal wounded humanity.
When the Church forgets that it is called by God and has a mission in the world, it betrays its very nature.
Amos upset the King of Israel and the entire establishment. He was told to leave Bethel, to stop prophesying: “Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah! [...] never again prophesy in Bethel” (Am 7:12–13).
A Church that is not aware of God’s call and does not accomplish its mission is tolerated by the world. However, a Church that is aware of its origin and complying with its mission challenges the dominant mentality and the powers that be.
We can see examples of this in attacks on religious freedom. The prophet Amos was not allowed to prophesy in Bethel. Nowadays, the Church is progressively being prevented from accomplishing its mission in the public square.
Let us ask our Lady to obtain for us the grace of being aware of God’s call and performing the mission entrusted to us. Amen.