15th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Year B.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“The Announcement of the Gospel and Money.”
Should the announcer of the Word of God be paid like an employee? Can he or she expect to become rich because of their work?
The first reading shows us the prophet Amos who tells us that money can be a great danger: The prophet who has to announce the word of God is handicapped if his or her living depends on someone who pays him or her.
The second reading speaks of the gratuity of the love of the Father and is an invitation to share generously with our brothers and sisters the gifts we have received.
The Gospel lists the instructions Jesus gives his disciples as he sends them on their mission. His apostles must avoid giving the impression that they are after some kind of economic advantage or are attached to the goods of this world.
Today’s readings invite us to reflect on what could happen if the announcer of the Gospel draws financial advantage from his or her preaching.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ‘Ignorance of Christ’.”
Unlike Elijah, Isaiah and others who seemed to have no life before their time in God’s service, Amos had a life; he was not a professional prophet. He belonged to no prophetic guild. Maybe his prophecy is the bleakest one in the Hebrew Scriptures for that very reason. He became a prophet by force, and not by inclination. His vocation is due to the personal intervention of the Lord.
Amos is so relentlessly dark in his prophesying that he gets parodied within the Bible. The Book of Jonah is a satire on prophets like Amos who hate their call. But we can find a soft spot in our hearts for this conservative man who followed the promptings he received. He goes from the south to prophesy to the people of the north. He gets the job done and is finally expelled from the north. One presumes he went back to the farm and got on with his life.
The days of Amos were perhaps the most prosperous period in the whole history of Israel: trade was flourishing, the Sinai copper mines produced at full pace, agriculture had improved, the population was increasing fast, and new and well-furnished palaces were being built. It was clear that the clever Jeroboam II, the king, had raised his people to a very high standard of wealth and power.
But was everything proper and right? Amos knew that this prosperity was for the ‘few’ at the expense of the many poor. The outward show of religion, the offerings to the priests and those costly sacrifices were all lies and hypocrisy. God is not interested in expensive offerings and sacrifices, false prayers, songs, incense or feasts. He wants a stop put to all scandalous social inequalities, oppression and injustice. Amos was conscience of divine vocation. He was tolerated as long as he denounced the sins of the nations around Israel, but once he challenged the corruption of Israel, he was attacked as an interfering foreigner.
Amaziah, a high priest of Bethel had got thoroughly fed up with Amos banging on about greed and the accumulation of private wealth, especially as Amos was delivering this subversive message in the Temple and tried to silence him. The reason that Amaziah offers for this ban: ‘Because this is the king’s sanctuary, and the Temple of the kingdom.’ But of course this is not true at all because if it is a sanctuary and a Temple then it belongs to God, and not even the high priest is allowed to control God’s message.
Amaziah could not see his own responsibility for the corruption of the royal court. Whoever receives a salary like the priest Amaziah is never really free to speak the truth and is always tempted to modify the message so as not to offend or to displease the ‘one who pays him’.
Amos’ prophetic activity is not to make a living. He is a layperson to whom God has entrusted a mission when he called him personally. It is not clear whether Amaziah succeeded in throwing Amos out of the country or merely forbade him from preaching in public places.
Amos sets an example for all those who are called to proclaim the word of God by his lack of interest in material things; he says, I do not speak these things for money and I am not paid by anybody, “I am a herdsman and I mind sycamore trees”. “As for your king who protects all these injustices is going to die by the sword and Israel will go into captivity far from its native land.
Many Christians behave like Amaziah; they keep their mouths shut although they see many injustices, because they are afraid of causing displeasure to their friends or get into trouble with the authorities. What prevents us, at times, from speaking out the truth? We have to testify to the truth even though it may be unwelcome, embarrassing and unpopular. We speak our piece, maybe dreading the whole business. Sometimes the truth has to come from someone, and that person is you.
In the Psalm, a temple official contemplates the prosperity of the nation after the gift of rain. He gives thanks where it is due. He extols the qualities of the God of the Exodus, his mercy and his kindness, and attributes material blessings to the fear of the Lord and a respect for his justice.
Today we begin the reading of Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. This will continue for seven Sundays. The letter opens with a long song of praise to God for the wonders he has worked for his people. “Blessings,” or praises, are one of the most characteristic forms of Jewish prayer. We bless God because of the love and wisdom shown in creation, and in Christ. Christ gives creation it’s meaning. We bless God because he chose us from the beginning and because of sin, we allowed ourselves to become captives, we were given freedom through the blood of Christ and became God’s adopted children.
This is the ‘Good News’ that we heard and believed. It has been sealed by the Spirit in baptism. We need to respond by living holy lives. Thus Ephesians begins with a noble proclamation of Christian belief in the Trinitarian God and in human dignity. Like the first Christians, we too should often sing this hymn of praise. We should continually trust in God because we are sure that he is fulfilling the plan of salvation that he has prepared.
Ephesians highlights the special blessings of the Christian calling. He chose us in Christ … to be holy (Godlike and spotless like Mary) … to live through love in his presence … to enjoy the privilege of being adopted as children of divine life … freed from the burden of guilt … forgiven … caught up in divine praise. Spend time in savouring these blessing and let people know what is special about being a Christian. We have far more to offer people than card readings, crystals, stars or tapping into the life force of the universe.
In Mark’s Gospel, the formation of the disciples unfolds in stages. Up and until now it is Jesus who preaches and heals. Jesus had called for disciples from the very first day of his preaching and later constituted the group of ‘Twelve’. Their role in the beginning was simply to be with Jesus to witness his preaching, his powerful deeds and the controversies that they provoked. They are now called to follow Jesus and become people who ‘fish for humans’; later they are called ‘to be with him’ and are given power over evil.
At this point their mission closely parallels that of Jesus: preaching repentance, confronting the power of evil and healing the sick. Jesus will later tell them that they too will be rejected by their loved ones. Now it is their turn to do what Jesus does. Jesus sends them out in pairs for their first missionary journey in Galilee. They are to count on God and others for support in carrying out their mission and not on their own possessions.
Imagine you are one of the ‘Twelve’. You have been with Jesus for a while, heard his teachings, and watched his miracles. Now he sends you off with only one companion to do the same. He gives you authority over unclean spirits; (You, called to cast out demons?) He tells you not to take a suitcase, or a sandwich, or money. (Empty handed, without your VISA card?) Don’t take a change of clothes, and make no reservations. Just go forth into the unknown, and be open to the Spirit. It is amazing to think of that journey. It is even more incredible to think that it would really work. Mark reports that demons were cast out, and cures were performed. These neophyte missionaries were indeed successful.
The message for us today is not that we need to give up our day jobs and take up exorcism though this world has its share of demons. It does however suggest that, like our brainpower, which goes largely unused, our spiritual resources given to us are vastly under-utilised. We test our faith so little and we have no idea what would be available to us if we stepped out of our comfort zone into the wind of the Spirit on a missionary journey.
As Christians, therefore, and as prophets we, too, are authorized by Jesus to face and overcome evil in this world, and to call people to repentance and to live their lives in view of God’s plan in Christ to bring humanity to final fulfilment. Our path, like the paths of all the prophets, will not be easy. But the news we witness to is the greatest news the world has ever heard and, in the end, God’s plan will succeed.
The most important translation of the Gospel is how we translate it into our hearts, our thinking, our attitudes and our behaviour. It still has authority and power over the evil of the day… and the power to heal.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B, we reflect on …
Sun. … As laypersons we are like the prophet Amos. By our baptism we are called to proclaim the word of God, and that means the ‘truth’ no matter what the consequences are to us or to others. Many of us may not like this task but by committing to the truth it will set us free to totally love and trust in God and to trust in his plan of salvation that he has prepared for us.
Mon. … In our positions of employment and in our communities are we free to speak the ‘truth’, or are we concerned that we may offend those who pay or support us? Have we ever been tempted to silence those whose message of truth may affect our financial gain with our false testimony, whilst we believed that our interests were just and honorable? If we have, today’s readings will no doubt show us that we could have acted with the same corrupt motives, as did Amaziah.
Tues. … Do we put on an ‘outward show’ of piety whilst enjoying relative prosperity, ignoring the needs of the less fortunate? Let us ask the one we first see in the mirror in mornings when we arise, whom is he/she trying to fool. Many Christians behave like Amaziah; they keep silent although they see many injustices. They don’t want to get involved or cause trouble for others for fear of reprisal or retaliation. Their justification is: it’s not really any of our business.
Wed. … Paul tells us in Ephesians that we are chosen in Christ to be witnesses to the world of God’s plan – to gather up all things in Christ. Do we accept these wonderful challenges that lie ahead of us?
Thurs. … Mark says a lot about the lifestyle of the disciples but virtually nothing about their message. The most important translation of the Gospel is how we translate it into our thinking, our attitudes and our behaviour. It still has the power over the evils of the day and the power to heal!
Frid. … God has given us many gifts which go largely unused, particularly those gifts we could employ for the benefit of our own less fortunate brothers and sisters. Let us today pray for God’s grace and guidance and then spend some time meditating on the many ways we can step out of our comfort zones into the wind of the Spirit on our own special missionary tasks of love and charity.
Sat. … As Christians, Jesus authorizes us to face and overcome the evil in this world in his Name, and in the power of love and the truth. Like the prophets of old our efforts will not be easy. But the ‘Good News’ that we witness by our actions as true Christians is the greatest news the world has ever heard. “God wants all people to be saved”. We all need to make this life saving choice today. Can we afford to wait?
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father Almighty, today we again reflect on our prophetic mission in spreading the ‘Good News’. We pray for the courage that in our contemporary culture of material excess, we as a community of disciples, may travel light and not be burdened by the temptations of mammon and all the disrupting influences it can bring.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.