In our part of the world it is summer-vacation time. People are packing up their cars, vans and trucks for trips with family, pets, and maps. They pray that they haven’t forgotten anything they will need.
We journey from one liturgy to the next trying to remember to let go of the many things we don’t and won’t have to have. We pray these days in preparation to hear more clearly the readings for this weekend. We pray for the real freedom from anything which gives us our identities. We pray for the freedom to put aside those things over which we might trip on our journeys. We pray for the freedom from those things which prevent others to touch us, love us, reveal God’s love to us.
We pray as well for the grace of mobility. We are all preparing for our years-long vocation trip. The Eucharist is both a gathering and a sending event. We are invited to travel with the apostles and Jesus doing those good deeds of healing, cleansing, and always to enjoy the trip.
There is a difference between being banished and being sent. We will read in the Gospel of Jesus' missioning the Twelve to go and do some "Christ-done deeds". In our First Reading we will hear a dismissal, a banishment. Jeroboam is the indulgent king of Israel. Amaziah is the chief priest of Bethel, the once-holy place. In the previous verses of this chapter, the Lord has given Amos three visions indicating disappointment with Israel and its future punishment of exile. "No longer will I overlook their offenses."
Amaziah calls Amos to give him the word that his services are no longer appreciated. Bethel belongs to Jeroboam and is now "royal". Amos has been prophesying that this "royal" has replaced the primacy of the divine.
Amaziah tells Amos to get out of town and go do his work elsewhere. We hear the reply of Amos by which he declares that this prophesying comes from the Lord and not through his own planning. Amos was a simple rural man and so what he has been saying is not from his own agenda, but from God.
The unjust, oppressive, self-indulgent, never want to hear how the Creator desires the creatures to live in relationship with the brothers and sisters. Amos knows from whence he comes and knows where hence Israel will be banished.
The Gospel is Mark's account of Jesus sending His apostles. Jesus gives them the authority which He Himself has been displaying earlier in the Gospel and which we have seen these past weeks in the Sunday readings. They are to leave behind anything which would supplant this authority and their having to trust their power flowing from the gift of that authority.
They will meet resistance and reluctance and when they do, they are still on mission. They will never be banished, but always sent.
This authority is different from power or dominating force, it is the same style of relating with others as Jesus exhibited Himself. This gift is to calm, cure, collect, and even say those "tough-love" words which might offend the offenders.
Amos had been in conversation with God and then with the powerful of Israel. The Apostles had been in conversation with Jesus and then were sent to converse with those to whom Jesus sent them. Conversation is more than talking! Amos and the Apostles had to listen!
A good conversationalist is one who listens more than speaks. There is a mission to be done through conversation. I hear often people talking to or at each other, but it is not real conversation; there is no mission there. One person says something and the other person, (not wanting to interrupt) waits for his/her turn and jumps in there to make sure there is no silence, no time for reflection on either part. Talking at someone means you are not eager to be changed by what the other person might have to say. It is more delightful to speak and then listen to what we just said and what we will say next to make sure there is no possibility of "conversion".
A second form of non-conversation is our listening to someone saying something which triggers our taking the center away from the other and making sure it is right where we are. We take it away from them, right out of their mouths and put it into our mouth and their ears. In a sense, we are not in the mission then of conversation, but banished to the exile of self-centered indulgence.
We resist real listening, because we do not want the surprise of conversion. Conversation and conversion have common roots. Jeroboam and Amaziah did not want to listen, because they did not want to return to their being God's Holy People. The Holy Bethel, "House of God", was the "royal" precincts for power and injustice. The Apostles are sent to return God's kingdom on earth and they will have to converse and experience rejection.
We as individuals are sent also to assist the Word’s being heard. We can speak of course, but we are missioned also to help others hear what they are saying by our encouraging them to keep talking! A good friend is one who listens. A good apostle is one who assists others in hearing the Word. A good Church is sent to listen to the Word, speak the Word and then listen to the responses and rejections.
“Jesus’ disciples are called, not
to be heralds of an idea, but witnesses of a person.”
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