12 July 2015: Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Am 7:12-15 Ps 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14 Eph 1:3-14 Mk 6:7-13

Baptism: being called, being sent

In Ordinary time, the Lectionary presents RCIA participants and all believing community members with stories and teachings from Jesus’ everyday ministry. This week the readings invite us to think about our Christian calling.

In the first reading, God puts Amos the prophet in a tough spot. God sends Amos, a southerner from Judah, to the northern kingdom (Israel) to deliver an unpopular message: Change your ways! Amaziah, the priest at Bethel, rejects Amos’ message because it conflicts with the happy news that Amaziah prefers to give the northern king. Amos tells Amaziah that it was God who called Amos, and it’s God’s message–that’s what it means to be a prophet.

Mark’s gospel describes Jesus summoning and sending the Twelve to spread his message through Galilee (what was left of the northern kingdom Israel in the first reading). Jesus delegates his own authority over unclean spirits to the Twelve. Jesus also sends them in twos so that they are not alone. Jesus orders the Twelve to take nothing with them except their mission: preaching metanoia (“change of heart”), expelling unclean spirits, and healing the sick. Mark uses the same words to describe the start of Jesus’ mission (Mk 1:15ff). Mark is reminding his ekklesia that is it a community (“two by two”), its authority is from Jesus, and its mission is to preach metanoia and to heal.

Today’s letter to the Ephesians is an early liturgical hymn used during baptism. The hymn’s themes include: the catechumen’s election and predestination before the world’s creation (“chose us before the world’s foundation,” “destined us for adoption”); Christ’s death and resurrection (“redemption by his blood; forgiveness of sins”); knowledge from Christian experience (“In wisdom he made known to us the mystery of his will”); the cosmic scope of salvation history (“God’s plan to sum up all things in Christ”); and the sealing of gentile Christians in the Spirit at initiation (“in him you were sealed with the Spirit’s promise”).

This week’s readings revolve around being called and being sent. Ephesians reminds RCIA catechumens and all of us that in baptism God adopts us as daughters and sons, and, through Jesus’ saving death, we receive unmerited salvation. In baptism we are also called–like the Twelve–to spread the good news that we are redeemed. Redemption requires metanoia (“change of heart”). Like Amos, we might find we’re sent with an unpopular message. But we are not sent alone. We are sent with the rest of the believing community, and we are sent with Jesus’ own authority. Do we preach metanoia? Do we heal? Do we hear what we preach?

—Terence Sherlock

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