Sunday Sermon for July 12, 2015, he Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary time, Year B

Readings: Am7:12-15; Eph 1:3-14; Mk 6:7-13
In the first reading Amaziah, the priest of Bethel (the place of the original Temple of the Lord), chastises the Prophet Amos for preaching against the goings on in the House of God. The priest tells the prophet to go and make a living by prophesying for people, but he is not to come back to Bethel. No one ever likes to hear negative things, but this is especially true of priests and bishops. After all, pride is the sin of the priest, so they only want to hear that everything they do is wonderful.

However, for our purposes today, it is not the problem of the priest that is important, it is response of the Prophet. Amos tells Amaziah that he was not a prophet nor did he belong to a company of prophets; rather, he was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamore trees. It was not Amos who thought he had some ability and sought to develop it; instead, it was God Who called him at the moment he was needed to do the work for which he was chosen by the Lord.

It is clear from this context (and in the Book of Amos) that Amos did not expect to be called nor did he see himself worthy of his call. Being a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores was about as low as one could go on the social ladder. At the same time, we see the humility in Amos, not so much that he worked in lowly employment, but that he was willing to do what God was asking, even though it made no sense to him on the natural level.

We find the same kind of pattern in the Gospel reading where our Lord summons the twelve Apostles to Himself and sends them our two by two with the instructions to preach, the cure and to cast out demons. We know that when the Apostles returned after their journeys that they were most amazed that even the demons were subject to them in our Lord’s Name. Once again, we see that they did not expect this or see this ability as anything they possessed by their own strength or ingenuity.

We know, as we look back on the various callings of the Twelve, that none of them thought themselves worthy of the call nor was there any kind of anticipation or expectation of a call coming to them from God. It was purely a gift from the Lord but it was also the Lord’s choice. He chose them and sent them out with the mandate to do the work for which they were called and chosen.

This is important for us because in the second reading today St. Paul tells us that we were chosen by God. We recall that our Lord stated that we did not choose Him; rather, He chose us. This would be astounding enough by itself, but then we have to put it into its proper context. God did not choose us because we were the best He could find, because we were doing so well, or because we had earned or deserved it. No, St. Paul say He called us from before the foundation of the world. From all eternity, before God even began the work of creation, He chose you for Himself.

This is a privilege that is well beyond our comprehension, but still, we naturally have to ask ourselves what it is for which we were chosen. St. Paul answers that question as well. He says we were chosen to be holy and blameless in God’s sight…so that we might exist for the praise of His glory. When we look ahead a few chapters in St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, we find that the Church, the Bride of Christ, is to be holy and without blemish, just as wives are to be in a marriage.

This means that as members of the Church we are in union with Jesus, the Bridegroom of our souls. As such, He is the One Who has to purify us and form us so that the two become one. Of course, we have to cooperate in this process. He is not going to force anything upon us. But, do we even recognize the privilege that has been extended to us and, if we want this gift of union with Jesus, are we willing to cooperate with Him in the transformation that must happen within us? We have to be transformed because He has already become like us, now we have to become like Him. This is a truly glorious call; it is also a great privilege and a massive responsibility. Amos went when called by God; the Apostles followed when called by Jesus. He has called you; what is your response?

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit