Sunday Sermon for July 15, 2012, the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Readings: Amos 7:12-15; Eph 1:3-14; Mk 6:7-13

Three times in the second reading St. Paul speaks about the fact that we are to be about the praise of God’s glory. At one point he even goes so far as to say that we are to exist for the praise of His glory. We need to consider this point because most of us do not praise God’s glory very often, let alone recognize that we exist for that purpose.

St. Paul says that God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens. He goes on to say that God chose us in Christ from before the foundation of the world to be holy and without blemish in His sight. He then speaks about our adoption as children of God, the grace bestowed upon us by Jesus and the redemption we have in our Lord.

Just being chosen by God is enough to praise His glory. Think about it: of all the people in the world, God chose us to be His own from all eternity. Why did He choose you? Who knows, but the fact that He did so deserves our most profound gratitude and praise.

We must be clear that God did not merely choose us and then put us into some kind of constraint which requires us to praise Him. Recall that God gets nothing from our praise, our gratitude, of works, our worship or anything else. Instead, we are the ones who benefit from it. However, giving praise to God is part of our dignity as persons. Also, because we are persons, we have a free will, so God does not force or require us to thank Him, praise Him, worship Him, etc.

We were chosen by God because He loves us. Love is a choice, a free act of the will. This means God freely chooses to love us. However, love requires a relationship, so if the love is to be complete we have to love God in return. This requires a free act of the will on our part. We have to choose Him and choose to love Him. When I say “we have to” I am not implying that we are being forced to do something against our will. What I mean is that making such a choice and acting upon it is the only way for us to complete the circuit of love, exercise the fullness of our personhood and our dignity, and become the persons we were created to be.

Prior to our being able to love, we need to be loved. This is what God has done for us. With the love poured into our souls, we now have the capacity to love God in return and to love others around us. In order to do this we need God’s grace, which St. Paul twice mentions that God bestows upon us.

When we talk about God’s grace we need to understand that some aspects of His grace are the same in each of us while other graces are unique to each individual. For instance, the forgiveness of sin, adoption as children of God, being made members of the Church and other such gifts that are given through God’s grace are essentially the same for every person.

On the other hand, there are graces that God gives each of us that are unique to the person. These graces include our vocation, help for particular problems in our life, helping us to accept God’s will as it is manifested in us and to us, and cooperating with the particular graces given to us. These graces can be given at any time so that we can know God’s will and choose to carry it out.

This is what we see in the first reading and in the Gospel. In the first reading Amos is told to make his living prophesying in some other place, and he states that he was not a prophet and did not belong to a guild of prophets. Rather, the Lord called him from being a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores to be a prophet.

In the Gospel the Lord sends out His Apostles, ordinary men by any account, to preach, heal and cast out demons. This is a grace that was given at that moment to each of the Apostles. What is more important to notice is that each of these men were called to preach, but the way they did it was unique to each of them. In other words, your vocation may be the same as that of thousands of others, but the way it will be lived and what you are to do within that vocation is unique to you. Accept the uniqueness and try to cooperate with God’s grace to give Him praise, perhaps even exist for the praise of His glory.

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