This weekend the Church celebrates the Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time. Both the first reading and the gospel deal with the idea of being sent on a mission for the Lord. The reading from Amos makes clear that God picks whomever He wishes and the Gospel reading shows the sense of mission and the urgency that should be visible in the behavior of those sent. Paul gives us a beautiful picture of God’s love in the new status of Christians as adopted children of God. The readings ask us to reconsider the fullness of our own responses to the mission that God has given each of us by virtue of our baptism and confirmation. Do we respond with the openness of Paul and the faithfulness of the Apostles? It also asks us to consider how we respond to others who have been given a task by the Lord. Do we react like Amaziah when we encounter someone sent by God to help us?
First Reading: Amos 7:12-15
12 To Amos, Amaziah said: “Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah! There earn your bread by prophesying, 13 but never again prophesy in Bethel; for it is the king’s sanctuary and a royal temple.” 14 Amos answered Amaziah, “I was no prophet, nor have I belonged to a company of prophets; I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. 15 The LORD took me from following the flock, and said to me, Go, prophesy to my people Israel.
NOTES on First Reading:
* 7:12 This event occurred after Israel split into two kingdoms. The southern kingdom called Judah consisted of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin (along with most of the Levites and priests). The northern kingdom called Israel included all the other tribes. Relations between the two kingdoms were often strained and hostile. Amos was from Judah but was called by God to be a prophet and was sent by God to the northern kingdom to preach in Israel. Amaziah uses an already obsolete (1 Sam 9:9) term for a prophet which may have had insulting connotations at the time. “Eat your bread” is an idiom for “earn your living.” He is told to go back to Judah. This stresses that he is seen as a foreigner (from Judah) interfering in the religious and political affairs of Israel.
* 7:14-15 Amos denies being a “prophet for hire” and being a member of a guild of prophets (1 Kgs 20:35; 2 Kgs 2:3,5,7,15; 4:1,38). Thus he disavows any connection to the professional prophets and claims that the choice was made by God Himself. Verse 15 contains an order from God which is a direct contradiction of Amaziah’s statement in verse 12.
Second Reading: Ephesians 1:3-14
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, 4 as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love 5 he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, 6 for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved.
7 In him we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of transgressions, in accord with the riches of his grace 8 that he lavished upon us. In all wisdom and insight, 9 he has made known to us the mystery of his will in accord with his favor that he set forth in him 10 as a plan for the fullness of times, to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth.
11 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, 12 so that we might exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped in Christ. 13 In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised holy Spirit, 14 which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory.
NOTES on Second Reading:
* 1:3-14 Here Paul deviates from his usual pattern of letter writing by inserting a blessing of God for the blessings Christians have experienced after the greeting and then continuing with a prayer of thanksgiving. The blessing used here is very similar to a common Jewish and early Christian berakah (type of blessing found in Tobit 13:1;1 Pt 1:3). It is rich in images most probably drawn from hymns and liturgical prayers of the time. There seems to be a heavy usage of baptismal references and language in the prayer of blessing. Most of the ideas presented here would already have been familiar to the readers. The same ideas are also found in Col 1:3-23. Paul emphasizes his point by repeating certain phrases such as:
in Christ (Eph 1:3,10,12), which here may mean either incorporation in Christ (usual Pauline meaning) or instrumentally, often alludes to the unity of Jewish and Gentile Christians; in him (Eph 1:4,7,9,11,13); in the Beloved (Eph 1:6); and the praise of (His) glory (Eph 1:6,12,14).
The trinity is discernible in the structure of the passage (Eph 1:3-14): God the Father (Eph 1:3-6,8,11), Christ (Eph 1:3,5,7-10,12), and the Spirit (Eph 1:13-14). The spiritual blessings which Christians have received through Christ are enumerated in the rest of the passage. In the very existence of the Christian communities the apostle sees the predetermined plan of God to bring all creation under the final rule of Christ (Eph 1:4-5,9-10) being made known (Eph 1:9) and carried through, to God’s glory (Eph 1:6,12,14). Paul sees their Christ-centered faith as evidence of this plan being brought to fulfillment.
The phrase, given as “in the heavens” means literally, “in the heavenlies” or “in the heavenly places,” which is a term used in Ephesians for the divine realm. It introduces the theme of the union of the heavenly and earthly worlds.
* 1:4-5 The terms, “chose” and “destined,” reflect Old Testament theology (Deut 7:7; 9:4-6; 14:2; 23:5). The terms, “holy and blameless,” are used in 5:27 to describe the Church, the bride of Christ. See also Col 1:22.
* 1:5 Through association with Christ and the church Christians are members of the family of God (see Rom 8:14- 17).
The term “destined” or “predestined” (depending upon translation) that is used here does not have quite the same meaning as was used later by Calvin and his more extreme followers. God’s ultimate plan involves a final destiny of glory for all who put their faith in Christ. Those who are called are said to be predestined or predetermined. These expressions do not mean that God is arbitrary. Paul uses them to emphasize the thought and care that God has taken for the Christian’s salvation. This concept later became twisted into the idea that God created some people for salvation and others for the ultimate purpose of damning them. This follows from an unscriptural view of the character of God. It is not what Paul had in mind. The relationship between God’s election and man’s choosing is a deep one. There are no easy answers and both truths are taught in Scripture but it is a grave error to take one Biblical truth to an unbiblical extreme that places it in opposition to other Biblical truths. The problem is not with the Bible or with the truth but with our understanding of both.
* 1:6 Use of “beloved” echoes back to the story of Christ’s baptism (Mark 1:11 and parallels).
* 1:7 Redemption and forgiveness are possible because of Christ’s death into which the Christian is incorporated through baptism (Col 1:14, 20).
* 1:8-9 Although wisdom and understanding can be seen as human qualities imparted by God’s grace as part of the previous verse (as does the NEB), they seem to fit better with 3:10 as divine properties that underlie the revelation of the mystery of God’s will.
* 1:9 Here as in Romans 16:25; Col 1:26,27 among others, mystery means a secret of God now revealed in the plan to save and sum up all things in Christ (Eph 1:10). See Eph 3:3-6.
* 1:10 While in Col 1:25 the plan involves Paul’s commission to preach, here in Ephesians the plan amounts to all the measures that go into God’s plan to sum up all things in Christ.
* 1:12 Those “who first hoped” are probably Jewish Christians in contrast with “you” meaning the Gentiles in verse 13. Other possibilities are the people of Israel, “we who already enjoyed the hope of Christ,” or present hope in contrast to future redemption (see Eph 1:14).
* 1:13 Sealed probably refers to being sealed by God, in baptism. See Eph 4:30 and 2 Cor 1:22.
* 1:14 “First installment” is usually taken to mean a down payment by God on full salvation as at 2 Cor 1:22.
Gospel Reading: Mark 6:7-13
7 He summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. 8 He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick–no food, no sack, no money in their belts. 9 They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic. 10 He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave from there. 11 Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.” 12 So they went off and preached repentance. 13 They drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
NOTES on Gospel:
* 6:7 Here we have a quick glimpse of Jesus as organizer. He does not wait until the twelve are fully trained before he involves them in His work.
* 6:8 Bread is a theme from here until 8:26. The word was also used for food in general. Here it means no means of support. The purse was a girdle or belt that was used to carry things like money.
* 6:9-11 Jesus urges the Twelve to streamline themselves and their style of work. No possessions are to burden them or distract them and they are not to seek better accommodations once they are settled. They are not to waste their time on the unreceptive but move on if they are rejected.
* 6:11 To shake off the dust of a place was a Semitic expression of contempt.
* 6:13 Presumably they learned to use oil from Jesus although it was already a common practice among healers of that day. See James 5:14-15 </font