We are 'saved' for life with and in God

  • July 13, 2009
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) July 12 (Amos 7:12-15; Psalm 85; Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6:7-13)

The threats and bullying of Amaziah the priest of Bethel meant very little to Amos. Amos wanted no part in the role of a prophet. It was not something that he sought, nor does he belong to any of the prophetic guilds. He was gainfully employed as a tree dresser and was minding his own business.

Then his whole life changed forever — God sought him out and ordered him to prophesy to Israel. That is what Amos did — he shook the power structure of his day by prophesying against the king and challenging the nation’s claim to be a just society. As long as Amos would be a “court prophet” and tell the king what he wanted to hear he was welcome. But if he did that, he would not be a prophet of God.

Amaziah is accusing him of disloyalty and subversion of the nation. These are the standard accusations against all of the great teachers and reformers of history. Don’t make trouble. Don’t stir things up. Don’t upset people. And that is correct if one is going to do those things because of their own personal issue or for the sake of notoriety or power. But the voice of conscience and the spirit must never be stifled or stilled even if it tells us what we desperately want to avoid hearing. Being in love with “the way things are and always have been” or stability and comfort lead to spiritual stagnation and death. But God will always send a prophet to stir the collective heart and conscience and they can be the unlikeliest of individuals.

Rather than an afterthought or emergency measure, human salvation has been God’s plan from the very beginning of time. But the plan included far more than salvation — God calls humanity to the status of adopted sons and daughters, enjoying the same relationship with God the Father as Jesus. But we are challenged to think of redemption in new ways. It is not limited to human beings but includes all of creation. All things, earthly and heavenly, are gathered together in Christ and reconciled to God. This hymn to God’s love invites us to reflect not so much on what we are “saved” from but what we are “saved” for: life with and in God. Rather than dwelling on sinfulness, our focus should be on what we are to become. And the gift of the Spirit is a pledge or sign in this life that the fullness of Christ’s inheritance awaits us.

Part of this inheritance that is manifested through the spirit is the power of presence and ministry. So powerful is this gift and so urgent the mission that Jesus sends out the twelve with nothing but the literal clothes on their back. And yet they want for nothing — those who welcome the coming of God provide for their needs. They are not to look around for a better deal but to stay wherever they land, and they are not to argue with those who are reluctant to receive the word. The urgency is such that Jesus orders the twelve to keep on the move — they are to show the arrival of God’s reign by exorcizing demons and healing the sick. And wherever they go they are to call for repentance — a change of mind and heart — in preparation for the coming Reign of God.

Although we do not live in quite the same expectation and sense of urgency as the first generation of Christians, our situation is more urgent than we may think. Building and protecting institutions and the pursuit of stability and efficiency is not the response our age calls for. In view of the challenges and crises that we face in our own time, perhaps we should be constantly on the move calling people to a change of mind and heart. Can we avoid the temptation to think in terms of “us” and “them”? Can we avoid buying into the prejudices and fears of our culture? Can we commit ourselves to an ethic of equality and sharing? The demons to be cast out are those of fear, violence, hatred and injustice; the healing is given through compassion, justice and reconciliation.