A Scriptural Reflection on the Readings for Sunday, July 15, 2012 | Carl E. Olson
• Am 7:12-15
• Ps 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14
• Eph 1:3-14
• Mk 6:7-13
God calls, God chooses, God cures.
Amos was the first of those men sometimes called the “classical prophets,” that is, those prophets whose messages were placed within a book. He is mysterious, but we know he lived in the eighth-century B.C. and was from the small town of Tekeo in the hills of Judah. He was a herdsman, breeding and raising livestock, most likely sheep, but perhaps also cattle. He was, in other words, an ordinary man trying to make an ordinary living.
As today’s reading from the book bearing his name suggests, Amos was a reluctant prophet. In fact, he insisted he was not a prophet, which may have been a refutation of the charge that he was a professional prophet working for hire. No, Amos insisted, he was called by God, who said to him: “Go, prophecy to my people Israel.” His reluctance is understandable, for his task to was bleak: to announce judgment, expose sin, renounce hypocritical and unjust religious rulers, and proclaim approaching doom.
Was Amos called to perform these tasks because God was unfairly harsh or bent on destruction? No, his calling was an act of love, an offering of salvation to those who had forgotten who they were and had turned away from what they should do and be. So when God called, Amos answered.
One of the great themes found in Apostle Paul’s writings is that God has chosen us and, as we hear in today’s reading from the opening chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians, “destined us for adoption.” This entire passage is an overwhelming outpouring of thanksgiving and joy, as the opening verse readily indicates: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens…”
These blessings, Paul writes, include redemption by Christ’s blood shed on the Cross, forgiveness of sins, the riches of grace lavished upon us, the hearing of the word of truth—the gospel, and the seal of the Holy Spirit. These are all part of the great mystery of salvation, in which God’s divine life is granted to us—not in a merely metaphorical or poetic fashion, but really and truly. “We can adore the Father,” explains the Catechism, “because he has caused us to be reborn to his life by adopting us as his children in his only Son …” (par. 2782).
This gift is completely gratuitous; it is undeserved and cannot be earned on our part. Rather, it was earned on our behalf by the sacrificial love, life, and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. The unique, eternal Son of God became a man and entered the temporal realm of time and history so men enslaved to sin and death could become sons of God. So it is God who chooses us for adoption.
Having become man, the Son willed to have his apostles share in his work. In today’s Gospel the Twelve are depicted sharing in the Son’s work as a physician of body and soul, his unique ability to heal the body and to forgiven sins. This passage is part of the basis for the Church’s teaching about the sacrament of the anointing of the sick. Jesus summoned the apostles to follow him, to share in his life of sacrifice and poverty, and then to “share in his ministry of compassion and healing” (CCC, par. 1506).
The Council of Trent noted that Mark 6:13 and James 5:14-15 showed that the sacred anointing of the sick was instituted by Christ “as a true and proper sacrament.” This sacrament is not just for those who are facing death, although it is often known as “extreme unction.” It is meant to be celebrated within the Eucharist (CCC, par. 1517), for God saves the entire person, body, soul, and spirit. Thus the Twelve preached repentance as well as drove out demons and cured the sick.
God calls—are we listening? God chooses—are we willing? God cures—are we accepting?
(This "Opening the Word" column originally appeared in the July 12, 2009, edition of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.)