Sunday Sermon for July 11, 2021, the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Readings: Am 7:12-15; Eph 1:3-14; Mk 6:7-13
In the first reading we hear about Amos whom God called to be a prophet. When the priest tells Amos to leave the Temple and make his living by prophesying elsewhere, Amos responds that he had not been a prophet nor was he a member of a company of prophets. Instead, he says, he was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamore trees.
When we hear this description Amos gives of himself, he is the person in society who would be the least expected to be chosen by God. To be a shepherd or a dresser of sycamores is definitely unskilled labor and the lowest in that culture. Moreover, unlike the members of the prophetic schools or the company of prophets, Amos was not interested in making money by speaking God’s word. Since he was not for hire, he could not be bought off or bribed to tell someone what they wanted to hear. He spoke the truth, even when it cost him greatly.
In the Gospel reading we hear about the sending of the Apostles. Like Amos, they had not been making a living by preaching the Word of God. Suddenly, Jesus gives them authority over unclean spirits and sends them out to preach repentance, to heal people by anointing them, and to cast out demons. We can only imagine the shock that was theirs when the first people were healed, or the first demons were cast out. Their preaching style would not have been honed because they had never attempted preaching before. They must have felt very awkward when they set out on their mission. By the time they returned they were rejoicing in seeing the Lord work through them.
All we have mentioned thus far is very important to us because St. Paul tells us in the second reading that in Christ we were chosen. We know from what St. Paul teaches elsewhere that people are called to various missions within the Mystical Body. However, in our reading today he tells us we are all called by God that we might exist for the praise of His glory. In other words, it does not matter what task is ours to accomplish within the Church, all of us are called to exist for the praise of God’s glory.
When God called Amos, He had to give the Prophet whatever he needed to fulfill the task to which God had called him. When the Lord sent His Apostles out on their first mission, as we saw above, He gave them authority over unclean spirits. Given the context, we can also deduce that authority was given to preach and to heal. So, God did not leave to their own devices those whom He called. Neither has He done so with us.
Regardless of the particular vocation and task that is ours, for which God has also given us the gifts we need to live as we are called, each of us has been gifted by God with everything we need to exist for His glory. Before saying anything else, please note that St. Paul does not say we are merely to act for His glory, to work for His glory, or even to live our lives for His glory. No, we are to exist for His glory. This means our very being, as well as everything we do, is to be directed to the greater glory of God.
Clearly, this is not possible for us to do on our own. So, in order to make it possible, St. Paul tells us God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens. God adopted us and called us to be holy and without blemish before Him. Even more than this, God in His wisdom and insight, has given us knowledge of the mystery that is to sum up all things in Christ, both on earth and in the heavens. This mystery is the Incarnation of the second Person of the Trinity and the union of the members of the Mystical Body of Christ. St. Paul also reminds us that we have been given the Holy Spirit as the first installment of our inheritance. If this is the first installment, it is beyond our ability to even imagine what the fullness with be!
We have everything we need to live, indeed, to exist, for God’s glory. However, St. Paul says we were destined in love, which means we are not puppets on God’s string. We have to make a choice to accept these gifts and cooperate with them. This is not only our call and our dignity, it is our fulfillment. In Heaven, every person will exist only for the praise of God’s glory for the rest of eternity. Choose now to exist, for the rest of your life, for the praise of God’s glory!
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.