Home » Gospel Encouragement – 11th July 2021 – 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel Encouragement – 11th July 2021 – 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear sisters and brothers,

I’m nervous that you may be getting a little tired of me continually bringing us back to the theme of being what Pope Francis calls ‘missionary disciples’, committed followers of Jesus who seek to share his love with others, but I’m afraid that that is where our readings take us again today, though with maybe an interesting – and challenging – introduction.

That introduction is our first reading.  To give us the context, Amos lives in the Holy Land after the reigns of Kings David and Solomon, so that means that the kingdom has now been divided in two, Israel in the north and Judah in the south.  Judah has maintained the Jewish religion, whilst Israel has created its own version of it.  Amos was a shepherd living in Judah, faithful to the original religion of the Jews, but he has been sent by God as a prophet – a kind of missionary disciples before disciples were really known about – to call Israel in the north back to God’s ways.  He has been doing this for some years with very little success, and today the high priest of this northern man made religion, Amaziah, is saying that they’ve had enough of him and that he should go home.  Amos, however, is so faithful that he tells Amaziah that he doesn’t have the ability to go home, even though he’d really like to, because he feels compelled to obey God and not the people who are rejecting him.  That is a an incredibly hard place to be.

By contrast, in the Gospel, it appears that Jesus’ disciples are having more success.  However, in Jesus advising them to move on from the towns that don’t welcome them we can see that even for them there was some resistance.

What does all this say to us?  Well, in a sense, nothing that we didn’t know already; that to live out our faith, to witness to it as missionary disciples, can be very challenging at times.  We live in an age that expects quick fix results, but in fact the process of sharing our faith with others and their responding positively is very slow.  On average sociologists say that people need to hear a message seven times before they grasp it, and the same is true of faith.  This hopefully gives us reassurance.  What might appear like failure, as for poor Amos, may actually be one small stop on the road to success, as we may be the first or third or fifth person to share our faith with any one individual, and blessed person seven will be the one who sees the fruit of it all.  And this can take years.  So, I suppose the message of today’s readings is, ‘don’t worry’; just be faithful; continue to witness to and be the love of God among the people that you know in the things that you say and the things that you do.

So, what does look like for us?  These next reflections come from my own experience, and my own ongoing failures.

  • First of all, it means battling with our sense of shame or embarrassment or inadequacy. God wants to use you, just as he used the simple shepherd Amos, three thousand years ago.
  • Secondly, a helpful tool is to think about where and how God has been at work in your life, so that when someone asks you why your faith is important to you, you have something to share with them, and aren’t left tongue tied.
  • In the third place we may need to ask God to give us the courage to be honest with others about the importance of our faith to us, about going to Mass and the other things that we do for and with God.
  • Again, to help us to be ready when people ask about our faith, it’s good to have thought about ‘why’ our faith is important to us, and that is going to be personal t each one of us.
  • Another thing to consider is the need to change the way we perceive our faith, to see it not as a set of rules to hold us back, but as the most loving friendship possible with him who wants to be the best friend ever…to everyone – Jesus – and to see our role as simply introducing others to him, as we might introduce them to anyone in our family.
  • And finally, to invite people to come to Church with us. Many people say that the reason they don’t come is because no one ever invited them.  Sometimes we let our fears stop us doing that which is the most obvious.  And maybe Mass isn’t the right starting point.  When things are normal, maybe it’s to invite them to a parish social, or a carol service, or a service when we pray for those who have dies; a non-threatening, welcoming and, hopefully, personal environment for them to connect with the parish family.
  • I said finally, but this is the final point. To see everyone as someone to show love to just because they are a daughter or son of God.  That is what we are made for and it is what inspires people to ask us about what motivates us, which is hopefully our faith.

As we pray today, let’s think of someone that we know who may be the person to whom God is inviting us to show such love, the love that reveals our faith.  And let’s ask for the courage to do just that, gently and lovingly, however long it takes.  And don’t worry how long it takes; it may take a lifetime.  The key is that we are seeking to be missionary disciples.

With every blessing,

Simon