15th Sunday in Ordinary Time B

Let’s talk about Amos, one of my favorite prophets.  I like him because he is bold and courageous.  But he also has the most interesting occupation in the bible.  He was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores.  I have no idea what that means but it has always intrigued me. What does a dresser of sycamores do? I just picture them walking around and imagining what outfit would look best on this tree.

Anyway, Amos has moved from the poorer southern kingdom of Judah to preach in the more prosperous northern kingdom of Israel.  He speaks of economic injustice and unjust systems the way Pope Francis has this past week in South America.  And he is obviously unwelcomed. A distressed priest asks him to return home and earn his money by prophesying in Judah.  Amos says something akin to “I ain’t no prophet.”  I was taken from the fields.  God gave me a word and I am compelled to share it.   The word of God burns within and it cannot be quenched unless it is shared.  And that is how you become a prophet.

And this is how you become a disciple.  Jesus tells the apostles to go out two by two.   They are to bring, “no food, no sack, no money in their belts.”  They can do nothing but rely on God.  They share a brand new message to people unprepared to hear it, but it is received.  They are able cast out demons and cure the sick for God always gives us enough for the mission.  And that is how you become a disciple.

And this is how you become a saint.  You are an Indian maiden in what would become upstate New York. You have a longing for a faith you have never known. When you finally hear of Jesus your entire life’s direction is to be drawn closer to him as if a magnetic pole is pulling you toward him.  The only thing she is famous for is loving Jesus and we remember her 300 years later.  That is how you become St. Kateri Tekakwitha.  That is how you become a saint.

Those examples are everything the Christian people should be about.  We are called to be prophets of God’s word, followers of Christ and saints.  It is our story.  I am blessed to be a priest of Jesus Christ.  I am so honored that I can share God’s prophetic word. That I am called to follow Jesus.  I am overwhelmed that people come to me so that the sick may be healed. And while exorcizing demons is a bit too frightful for me, I know I am called to fight evil when I see it.

But if I were the only priest to speak God’s word, not enough people would hear it.  If I were the only priest who touched others, not enough people would be healed.  If I were the only priest to confront evil, it would not be enough.  For all we share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ.  When you were baptized, as the holy chrism was applied, you were anointed as priest, prophet and king, to sacrifice as a priest does, to bring the word of God to a needy word like a prophet, to create a new kingdom of justice as a ruler is called to do.  I have a friend who told me the most important thing in her life is to live out her priesthood.  To paraphrase Moses, would that all God’s people were priests.

Our mission today is the same as it ever was.  The same as Jesus gave those first disciples – we must have faith that where the sick need a cure, we are the healers; where the word needs preaching, we have the courage; where people need assistance, we have their back.

While in Bolivia, the Pope addressed the most interesting group.  A union of those whose jobs make them the poorest of the poor.  You know who they are:  the ones who collect the soda bottles we leave behind or who seek abandoned tires to resell the rubber or who salvage something to sell from the dumps they call home.  Pope Francis said that they are victims of an unjust systems and unfettered pursuit of money.  He said, “You think there is nothing they can do about it.”  But Francis claimed there always is something.  For things to change, it will not be from a successful political movement or from a new philosophy – the kingdom of justice will only come from a change of heart.  That word of God that burns within us as it did in Amos can make that change.

Paul tells the Ephesians in the second reading, “In him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory.”  We are the chosen by God in Christ to do his will, his justice.  For this we were meant.  For all the injustice that abounds, for all the sadness that surrounds, for all the evil we will have yet to be delivered from, it is no match for a nation of priests.  It can only fall to the power of the Gospel.  There is nothing that will stop us from building this new kingdom.  We are the chosen people of Christ.