15th Sunday of Ordinary time/Bible Sunday (15 July 2018)

Amos 7:12-15; Eph 1:3-14; Mark 6:7-13

God created us to belong to Him in a joyous and intimate relationship where we would find complete meaning living as His people. But this is a difficult message for those who are of this world. The motives of those who speak God’s message may be suspected or questioned. When that happens, we are asked to commit this to God and to continue to carry out His work.

In the first reading, the prophet Amos revealed the visions that God had shown Him and asked to prophecy about. His listener was not impressed. Amaziah asked him to leave and even accused Amos of being a mercenary. Go and earn your bread by prophesying elsewhere, he said to Amos. Amos responded by making it clear that he was not a mercenary and instead attested to the fact that he had been a herdsman when God picked him to go and prophesy to the people of Israel. Amos was obedient to God and ultimately that was all that mattered. Amos was not responsible for Amaziah’s unbelieving heart. That was entirely Amaziah’s own choice and will.

In the Gospel, Jesus similarly commissions the twelve disciples for their field exercise. He sent them in pairs to preach the good news. The Holy Spirit would go with them and they would have the power to overcome the evil spirits. But Jesus insisted that they go depending completely on God. They were to take nothing with them except a staff and the clothes they wore. They were not to take spares. In setting off in this way, they were going in faith and depending on God to provide for them. Jesus told them that at times they would encounter hospitality and a warm welcome; while at other times they would be rejected and the people would refuse to welcome them. Again the disciples were not to be responsible for the responses they encountered. Each of us will encounter God every day in numerous situations. Whether we see His presence in these situations and how we respond to Him is up to us.

But what is the message that God wants us to receive? Paul’s introduction in his letter to the Ephesians gives us a number of deep insights. God has blessed us with the spiritual blessings of heaven so that we can enjoy our eternal destiny in heaven in accordance with God’s plan through the work of Jesus Christ. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, we have been made holy and spotless. Our sinfulness is taken away from us not because of anything we have done to deserve this but because by His death and resurrection, Jesus has paid the price for the sins of all humanity and through His obedience, the God of perfect justice becomes also the God of perfect love and mercy. Because of Jesus we become children of God. This has been the eternal plan of God who ordained that all things would be brought together under the sovereignty of His Son.

This is a message that rests first on the recognition that our eternal salvation is a gift from God. It is not something we can earn because once sin entered the world, it took hold and on our own we are powerless to conquer it. Only God can conquer it; but it is a conquest that cannot be free for if it were, the evil one would mock God’s claim to justice. The wages of sin is death and God by His Son Jesus pays it in full. And by His resurrection He frees us completely from death’s hold. We need to acknowledge this to see the depth of God’s love for us.

Some points to reflect on as you read the readings:

  1. Have you ever tried to speak to a non-believer about God’s message of salvation? What are some responses given to resist the message? How can you be strong in the face of rejection?
  2. According to Paul, what has been God’s plan for His people from the very beginning of creation? Why is it important to recognize that salvation is a gift that God gives each of us?
  3. Why did Jesus insist that the disciples take nothing on their journey? Why is it important for all who are doing God’s work to depend entirely on God and not on their own skill or talent?