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God's Word on Sunday: God prepares us for incredible blessings

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  • July 4, 2021

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 11 (Year B) Amos 7:12-15; Psalm 85; Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6:7-13

The message of Amaziah the priest to Amos the prophet was clear: You are intruding on our turf — go back to your own territory.

This exchange took place in the mid-eighth century B.C. in the northern kingdom of Israel. The great rift between the north and south had taken place a couple of centuries earlier. Amos was from the southern kingdom of Judah and that is why Amaziah tried to expel him.

Amaziah drove the point home by insisting that Bethel was the heart of the nation and the sanctuary of the king, and they had no need of prophets. But Amos had a novel answer — he denied that he was a professional prophet.

He did not earn a living by delivering self-serving prophecies as some of the professional prophets did. He denied coming from a family of prophets and insisted that he was a simple herdsman and dresser of sycamore trees. And that was why he was prophesying where he was not welcome — God had ordered him to do so. He was obeying a divine command and therefore would not be intimidated or dissuaded.

Throughout his ministry, Amos raked Israel over the coals for oppressive economic and social injustice, which was clearly a violation of their covenant with God. Amos was a “warner” — his job was to break through the denial and self-delusion of the ruling and social elite and lead them to repentance.

He offered visions of the disaster that was clearly coming their way if they did not change their ways. That disaster was Assyria, the ravenous superpower of the age. Israel was next on Assyria’s list and since Israel made no move to repent, it was gobbled up by Assyria in 722 BC.

Warners are seldom heeded, either in ancient times or in our own. Denial and obstinacy can be almost impenetrable and wilful ignorance an addiction. But God keeps trying and sometimes people even listen. We will always be warned when our collective negative behaviour is inviting disaster. But the question is whether we will listen to God’s call to an inner change or kill the messenger.

But God does more than just warn us — we are constantly called to something higher than just “being good.” Ephesians lets us in on a secret — God has been at work since the beginning of time, preparing us for incredible spiritual blessings and an ever-closer relationship with God.

The faithful in Christ are offered the status of adopted sons and daughters of God. It is not something that we earn or merit — forgiveness of our sins is a gift through Christ so that we will be blameless as we stand in God’s presence. We have already been chosen; it remains only for us to respond to the invitation. But this is only part of the picture. God’s ultimate intention is to restore all earthly and heavenly things in Christ. God’s work is not complete —and neither is ours — until the world and humanity are reconciled and restored to God.

Part of that work was evident in the ministry of Jesus and His apostles. Jesus gave them power that can only come from above. It had nothing to do with personal holiness or accomplishments. Their mission was to cast out demons and heal the sick. Every time that occurred, a small portion of creation was restored to the dominion of God. The calls to repentance brought human hearts and minds into harmony with God, and without this there can be no real reconciliation or restoration.

They were sent out on their mission without the slightest means of material support. Material means might have created a dependency and given them the impression that the success of their mission depended on them. They were to rely only on God, who would ensure that they were provided for. They were also instructed to stay on the move and avoid any sort of distraction.

This sense of urgency was heightened by the expectation that the reign of God with the radical changes it would bring was imminent. We do not usually have this same sense of urgency today, although there are many urgent challenges that confront us. Travelling light, remaining focused on our spiritual goals and relying on the providence of God will all serve us well in meeting these challenges and continuing God’s work.

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