15Jul 15 July. 15th Sunday

1st Reading: Amos (7:12-15)

Amos is called by God to be a prophet

Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.” Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.'”

Resp. Psalm (Ps 85)

R./: Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation

I will hear what God proclaims;
the Lord—for he proclaims peace.
Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land. (R./)

Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven. (R./)

The Lord himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and prepare the way of his steps. (R./)

2nd Reading: Ephesians (1:3-14)

Praise of God’s lavish grace to mankind

(or shorter: Ephesians 1:3-10)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

Gospel: Mark (6:7-13)

Jesus sends out the twelve, to proclaim repentance

Jesus called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.


Healing and reconciliation

When people ask a priest to pray for them, it may be so that they  may regain peace of mind in coping with an illness or with tensions in the family, but sometimes it’s hoping that some conflict in their lives will be resolved. Certainly, peace of mind is highly desirable, but for it to happen some kind of reconciliation, rooted in conversion, may be needed. This is vital for the healing of life and relationships. We are all sealed with the Spirit, and called by God to live according to His plan, but in practice my healing may need a change of attitude as much as the work of divine grace. Healing takes place in a variety of ways, physical, emotional, spiritual, but it always involves attitudes and lifestyle as much as aches and pains and trauma.

Each one of us is called to be a healer, each in our own way. All of us can learn the power of kindness, a bit of thought, a smile, a helping hand. We are limited only by our lack of concern, by our fear, by our forgetting that (as Paul says) we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. There untapped potential for good in all of us. It is worth remembering that peace is not just the absence of trouble. It is above all a life-force, like joy and love, that helps us handle life’s difficulties and threats. It’s origins are in God Himself whom the Old Testament calls Yahweh-Shalom, God of Peace. But here, peace means wholeness, completeness, a reality that God wants all of us to share with one another.

So during this Mass we pray with and for each other, bless each other, support each other, forgive each other, treat each other with love and compassion. These are the things that heal and they are within everyone’s reach. Of course, healing is a process; like growth itself it takes time, but who can say what the effect of a simple outreach may be? Let us trust God to complete with loving grace what we begin with his help.

Poverty is not shameful

Our newspapers regularly publish lists of wills of people who have recently died. The name and occupation of the deceased is followed by the monetary value of his or her estate. If a priest or other cleric figures in the upper bracket of wills, it raises the odd anomaly of the wealthy clergyman. A large financial legacy is hardly the epitaph Christ would wish for those who minister to his people. For a long time the catholic clergy held a dominant position in Irish society. As a result, they came in for much criticism in literature and the media. In this, James Joyce was just one critic among many. The people were often more indulgent towards other short-comings of their pastors. Priests who fell victim to the demon drink were more pitied than censored, and those who succumbed to the charms of the fair sex were not harshly condemned. The most severe criticism was reserved for the money-grasping priest. This ordinary gut-reaction of the people (sensus fidelium) accurately mirrors the guidance of  Christ in today’s Gospel.

Poverty is a painful factor in our selfish world. We are bombarded with harrowing accounts of grinding poverty in the Third World. The developed world too has its poverty stories, with statistics showing the growing numbers living below the poverty line in the “rich man’s club.” No great city in the Western world is without its poverty-belt where people in the low- or no-income sector are confined within their poverty trap. The resulting plague of crime and drugs has obliged governments from time to time to declare war on poverty. “Poverty must be eradicated,” they say, without much conviction. Small wonder if the concept of a virtue of poverty seems totally outmoded. In the popular mind, the virtue stands indicted like its demographic namesake. This can have disastrous consequences. The reality of poverty will continue to ravage the have-nots, as long as the First World fails to practise the virtue of frugality. In certain cases the situation is even worse. Recently, the story broke of a European shipping company dumping its cargo of dangerous toxic waste in an underdeveloped African state. Having plundered that continent for centuries to raise our standard of living, we now have the gall to fill its empty belly with our waste.

If the Christian West wishes to continue to preach the gospel in Africa and elsewhere, we need to give a more authentic witness to it. If we wish to live by the Gospel, remember that Christ began with the words: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” When he called his disciples, they were to leave everything to follow him. The only one who refused his call, the rich young man, did so because “he had many possessions.” As he was sending them out to preach, Jesus told them: “Take nothing with you.” So any priest who leaves behind as the fruit of his labours a tidy nest egg, has miserably ignored his Master’s direction on this point.

Choosing our journeys

In July and August many people take their holidays. For most of us, a holiday involves a going, a  journey of some kind. An important part of a holiday is leaving the familiar, the place where we usually live and work, and heading off to a different kind of place. There is always something exciting about setting out on such a journey. There are other journeys in life that are not of our choosing in quite that way. These are journeys we make because, at some level, we feel we must make them. Something within us moves us to certain path, to head out in a certain direction. Even though we sense the journey may be difficult, and we may have all kinds of hesitations and reservations about it, nonetheless, we know we have to set out on this path, if we are to be true to ourselves. Yes, we choose to make such a journey, but it is a choice in response to what seems like a call from beyond ourselves or from deep within ourselves.

Such a journey is put before us in today’s first reading. Amos was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamore trees in the southern kingdom of Judah. Yet, at a certain moment in his life, he felt under compulsion to make a difficult journey into the Northern kingdom of Israel in order to preach the word of God there. It was a most unlikely journey for the likes of Amos to make, and Amos was well aware that it would be no holiday. Yet, he also knew that this was a journey he simply had to make. He spoke of this compulsion in terms of God’s call: ‘The Lord… took me from herding the flock and… said “Go”.’ Amos went because he had a strong sense that he was being sent. In a similar way, in the gospel, the disciples set out on a journey because they are sent on that journey by Jesus. They set out freely, but in response to a call, a sending.

The experience of Amos and the disciples can be our experience too, setting out on a journey not completely of our choosing. The 2nd Reading suggests the mystery of God’s  purpose for our lives. It says that God wants us to live in a certain way,  to live our life’s journey as Jesus did. Although we often make all kinds of journeys of our own choosing, whether  holidays or business or other trips, there is sense in which we try to allow our God to guide us to take certain paths and to avoid others, moving us in one direction rather than another. Although God has chosen this journey for us – ‘before the world was made’, according to St Paul – God wants us to also choose this journey for ourselves, and waits for us to do so. This is not a choice we make once and for all; it is one we are constantly remaking. All our lives we can keep on choosing to surrender to God’s purpose for us; we keep setting out on the journey God is calling us to take; we keep inviting God to have his way in our lives, saying with Mary, ‘Let it be to me according to your word.’

If we keep choosing the journey that God has chosen for us in Christ, responding to God’s call, this will impact on the many smaller journeys we take in life. It will influence our holidays for example. We will choose to holiday in ways that are genuinely recreational, that help re-create the image of God’s Son in us. We will relax in ways that are life-giving for ourselves and for others, in ways that help us to become more fully the person God wants us to be.

Machtnamh: Níl an bhochtaineacht náireach

Uaireanta foilsíonn ár nuachtáin liosta de thoilí deireannaigh na ndaoine a fuair bás le déanaí. Tar éis ainm agus gairm an duine éagtha leanann luach airgeadaíochta a eastáit. Má thagann ainm sagairt nó cléirigh idir na toileannaí uachtarach bíonn íontas ar daoine faoi animhrialtacht an fhir-eaglasta saibhir. Ní oidhreacht mór airgeadais is mian le Chríost de cheann dá shagart! I rith tamaill fada (1860 go dtí timpeall 1968) bhí seasamh ceannasach ag easpaig agus sagairt i sochaí na hÉireann. Mar thoradh air sin, is minic a cáineadh iad sa litríocht agus sna meáin chumarsáide. Sa chaoi seo níl James Joyce ach cáineadh amháin i measc a lán. Is minic a taispeán na daoine níos mó maitiúnais do lochtanna eile a gcuid tréadaí. Bhí trócaire agus tuisgint dóibh siúd a thit faoi thionchar an deoch nó siúd a chuaigh faoi bhráid ag an ghnéis níos álainn. Tháinig an cháineadh is déine ar an sagart abhi’ ró-gabhtha do’n airgead. Léiríonn fios seo na ndaoine (sensus fidelium) go cruinn meóin Chríost sa Soiscéal inniú.


(Saint Bonaventure, priest and doctor of the Church)

Giovanni di Fidanza (1221-1274) was an Italian scholastic theologian and philosopher who took the religious name Bonaventura when he joined the Order of Friars Minor. Subsequently he became minister general of the Franciscans and cardinal bishop of Albano. His lifetime coincides almost exactly with that of his celebrated Dominican contemporary, Thomas Aquinas. Much admired as a teacher, Bonaventure was nicknamed the “Seraphic Doctor” and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1588.

2 Responses

  1. Brian Fahy

    An invitation to love

    During my studies in Rome in the 1980s I did a course entitled ‘The Homily – Dialogue or Monologue?’ It was a course given by Giuseppe Orlandoni, who is now a bishop in Italy. It could be very easy to consider the act of preaching as a monologue, since we see a person stand up and speak and others sit silently listening. It could be regarded as a one-way street. But human communication cannot be a one-way street. There has to be address and reception and recognition and affirmation for a true communication to occur.

    The preaching and teaching of Jesus is always a dialogue in which people engage and ask for clarification and inquire for the meaning to what Jesus says. Jesus is in constant discussion with people, with his disciples, with the crowds, with individuals, and with his opponents perhaps most of all. The to and fro of thoughts and intentions is there at every stage.

    When Jesus sends his disciples out on their first mission we see the same dynamic at work – a give and take of life. The disciples do not go to give out a package of teaching to a passive audience. They go to bring a message of good news for life to people, and as they do so they must entrust themselves to the goodness of the people to whom they are sent. There is a mutual exchange of life and of life-giving gifts. Their lodging and their food will come to them from the goodness of the people that they meet. They do not bring all their goods with them or stay apart from those to whom they go. They enter into their life and receive their hospitality.

    When we entrust ourselves to others, say for food and lodging or for any other assistance in life we call forth the goodness that dwells inside those people. If we do not entrust ourselves to others, if we do not allow them to be good to us, we deprive them of the life enhancing opportunity for which they wait, the invitation to help another.

    Our modern world preaches too much a need for self-reliance and for independence. Life is not like this and never has been. We need the love and affection that can only come to us from another whom we allow to love us and help us.

    When people find themselves in hospital it comes as an amazing surprise to many to discover just how kind and loving other people are. Nurses and doctors and carers of all kinds are forever being called upon to give love and attention and they do. It is in our nature, but too often it is not seen until extreme moments, such as illness cause it to appear.

    Take nothing for the journey, Jesus says. You will find all you need in the people you meet. As you give them the gospel of goodness and love that you have come to know, so let them give you the gospel of goodness and love that already resides inside them.

    The disciples set out without bread or bags or money. On the road they would meet people and engage with them and share life and exchange the gifts that they had, the gospel of life.

    We have it in our power by engaging with people we meet, to bring out the best in one another. No monologues here. With the Lord dialogue is the way to life.
    Brian Fahy

  2. Sean O'Conaill

    But see Comment #5 under ‘The Curious Case of the Archbishop’s Comments’.