Homily – 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Friends, my reflections today were originally shared in this cycle three years ago. I added some updates, but wanted to share many of the same things again, so this is my 2015 version. Last week we spent time reflecting on the call of the prophet and that each of us has that call in our own individual lives as Christians—it goes with the territory, so to speak—to claim the name comes with responsibilities.  So, if we struggled with this fact last week—asking, “Did the Scriptures really say that?”—well this week, there is no doubt—we are called to prophecy—to prophesy—each one of us, where we live and work and play.

Again, we see the reluctance of the key players in today’s readings—or at least their incredulousness at being called.  Who? Me?  Amos says—he’s only a shepherd and he gathers figs for food.  One could say, “I’m just a woman, no one listens to women—why God—why me?” Or one might say, “I’m just a simple teacher, a farmer, a tradesman, a mother, a grandparent—I have no skills.” In defense of himself, Amos, when told to go home by the priest at Bethel, says—Look, I was a shepherd and God called me, so I went to prophesy to God’s people.  He didn’t even claim the name of prophet, much like Paul last week, didn’t claim the title, but surely was one.

Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians has almost an agitated tone in his message—he truly wants these people and us by extension, to get it—that we are called, as we sang in the opening hymn,  and not just as workers, but as heirs in Jesus’ family.

This truly is “Good News” that we are wanted not just for what we can do, but for who we are—part of the family. The Redig side of our family met last weekend for business and family fun and I think whenever we meet; we marvel at how good it is to be a family.  We have our differences, sure, but we still know that we are part of something quite special. Hopefully, you have like experiences.

Jesus, in the Gospel today goes on to affirm this call by letting those first apostles and us, know how we should go about prophesying.  Their task and ours will be to proclaim the need that we all turn our lives around—that we repent that which has made us less than the people God intended us to be and remember to offer to ourselves and others the gift of healing, by extending God’s love and mercy—always.

This task may be as simple as the challenge from a young woman, a few years back, that I had the privilege to meet.  She had experienced the death of a classmate to suicide and this experience called her to value in a new way, each day of her precious life. Her challenge to me, as to herself, was, and these are her words, “To teach all the members of God’s family to act like every day is the last and to trust in God.”

She went on reflecting about life and how it seems that some of us are only concerned about health when we are sick or getting older—also that we visit people and care for them more at these times than at others. Finally, she mentioned that when we talk to such people, we are careful not to mention what is really going on for them. Interesting thoughts to ponder when considering truth-telling.

Jesus’ first apostles were to take little for their journey of prophesying—just what was needed. Perhaps this is a reminder to us as it was for the apostles that any success that we might have does not come from us, but from our loving God who began this good work in us, so to always give God the praise.  Perhaps the message might also be, on a more personal level, to own only what we truly need and share with others what we no longer require.  I have begun, with a bit more time, in my retirement, to look at what clutters my life—how much do I really need and how much are simply wants, and strike a balance. We often hear the reports of those who lose everything due to devastating storms and fires and that if they got away with their lives, say they have what is most important!

Besides going out simply and living simply, these first followers of Jesus were supposed to be prepared to “shake off the dust!”  In Jesus’ day it was common practice to, “shake off the dust” when leaving a foreign place as a sign that their views were not the same.  In our present day, I think we struggle with knowing when to be accepting of others’ stands and when to stand our own ground for the perceived right. After all, most of us, brought up with religious backgrounds, learned well to not question, just accept and then of course, there is “Minnesota Nice” to contend with!  Perhaps there is a place in the middle. When I put down some of these thoughts three years ago, I said, “We all pray, that our Congress would find that place—the middle, that is, as they attempt to do the work of the people.” It is incredible that three years later, this can still be our prayer!

Probably the most touching part of Jesus’ message to his first followers and ultimately to us is his instruction that each one have a partner for the journey—someone that we can turn to, depend on, and receive loving support from. Jesus knew the arduous task of being a prophet, a teacher, a healer—how wonderful that he encouraged this purely human good of companionship for those who follow him.  That is why our community here, All Are One, becomes so important, as we struggle to faithfully and courageously carry out our part of Jesus’ mission on earth.  Through our prayer, listening to the Word and sharing the Eucharistic meal, sign and symbol of Jesus with us, we acknowledge our deep need for companions and our call to be “companion” to others.  We stand for something different in the Catholic community of this area—we go against the grain—some say, we cause “confusion” for others and we do need the support of each other to be the prophets that Jesus calls us to be.

For the next several weeks, Robert and I will be away and Dick Dahl will be pastoring and leading you.  My prayer will be that each of you will be that support and give care to one another in my absence.

So, we are called to the task of prophesying.  Why is it, do you think that people of old and people in present times find that so difficult? Do we lack the faith to know and believe that we can do anything to make a difference? Perhaps.  I think sometimes we are of the misconception that to be a prophet means we have to travel or be someone important, more than educated, of some means, and the list goes on to discount ourselves from even considering such a “lofty” task.

But, let’s look at who God has chosen:  fisher people, shepherds, tentmakers, the poor, the afflicted, women—no less, to speak truth to power in a way that because of their ordinariness, ALL people will know that the power unleashed through them—through us, is really the power of God.

All the readings today confirm for us that God chooses ordinary Christians and gives them extraordinary responsibilities! Really, this is another sign of how we are loved and trusted by our God. When you think about it—don’t we mere humans give the tasks that take the greatest responsibility to those we love and trust most? Our loving God will not be outdone by us.

All of us are simple people too, educators, grandparents, electricians, farmers, in the social and human sciences, nurses, moms and dads, pastors, children—and it is within these ordinary professions and stages of life that we are called to make a difference by the way we live our lives—it is where we touch hearts and minds and souls with the tenderness of our God—it is there that we heal people with our touch, our words.  It is there that we help to drive out the “demons” that have strangleholds on people—just as those first apostles did.  In very ordinary ways, ordinary people are called to do extraordinary tasks for the kindom.

In the first decade after the Second Vatican Council, we used to sing a hymn—“They Will Know We Are Christians by our Love”—that wasn’t just a catchy tune! At the beginning of my homily today,

I mentioned the challenge I was given by a young woman to live each day as if it was my last and to teach others to do the same—I called her a young woman and indeed she was, but in actuality only 14 years of age at the time—a prophet indeed—living fully within her simple, young life.

We might experience fear when we feel that we have no skills for this awesome task, or not the right skills, but we must not forget the power of Jesus within us.  There is nowhere we have to go—we only have to be where we are, making a difference there! We only need find the ways to help people let go of their troubles by touching them with the healing power of God’s tenderness.  St. Francis of Assisi once said, “Preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary, use words!”

And if you’re still not sure and asking the questions, Who? Me?—you may hear our loving, patient God responding, if not you, who else?

A final question to us all: What message does our own personal life proclaim to others? Is it one of service, or self-preoccupation? May we all be blessed today!