The Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – 11 July 2021
Lectionary Readings: Amos 7:12-15; Ps 85: 8, 9-10,11-12,13-14; Eph 1:3-14; Mk 6:7-13
Theme: Mission with Meaning
Linking the biblical readings of this liturgy, I find a strong sense of mission — of sending or being sent with a compelling purpose. One might see an interesting parallel between the passages from Amos and Mark, which allude to mandates received, action initiated, opposition recognized, and finally some certitude that the mission will be accomplished. Both reflect profound journeys in faith.
While Mark offers what could be a first draft of a manual for missionaries; the passage from Amos reflects an oppressive control exercised from the king’s sanctuary. Mark’s disciples are dispatched with minimal resources, only a staff and sandals – no bread, no bag, no money – an indication of the austerity and discipline required! Amos has no more security than Mark’s disciples: experienced as a herdsman and dresser of sycamore trees, Amos, a Judean, is thrust into the role of prophet to Israel! Both of them endure opposition: for Amos, it is from Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, who demands that he earn his bread elsewhere; for the disciples, it will be those who refuse to even listen to them. Finally, Jesus tells his disciples to shake off the very dust that clings to their shoes, and move on; while Amos confronts Amaziah, insisting on his own God-given mission to “go, prophesy to my people, Israel!” (v. 15)
Bobertz remarks that, with Amos 6:7, the final mission to the Jews in Israel and the diaspora begins in earnest (p. 61). It appears that a consequence of the rejection of Jesus at Nazareth in 6:3-6 was his decision to teach elsewhere; so our passage marks a new period in his Galilean ministry, in which he shares his preaching and healing with the Twelve. The number twelve is significant in Mark; it represents the Jewish core of the mission, the center from which the mission to the Gentiles proceeds. It is vital to Mark’s narrative purpose that the leaders of his community come to understand, accept, and nurture the Gentiles who have joined the church through ritual baptism. Now both Jews and Gentiles from Israel and the lands of the diaspora are to be integrally part of the community.
Mention of baptism takes us to the magnificent Ephesians passage (1:3-14), that might be summarized as: God’s exquisite plan revealed and accomplished. It has been described as a baptismal anamnesis (remembrance) and paraklesis (exhortation), articulating for new converts the implications of their baptism (Brown, 886), and urging them to treasure their inheritance in Christ: “you heard … you believed … you were sealed with the Holy Spirit, the pledge of your inheritance” (1:13-14). The joy and confidence of that call and mission echo in the Psalmist’s prayer: “Let me hear what God, the Lord, will speak … The Lord will give what is good … that his glory may dwell in our land” (85:8, 12, 9).
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. What is your own sense of mission now – its source and how it shapes your life? 2. Name a recent commitment of your faith community that clearly reflects its mission.
Bibliography: Bobertz, C. A., The Gospel of Mark: A Liturgical Reading, Baker Academic (Grand Rapids, Michigan: 2016); Brown, R. & al., The New Jerome Biblical Commentary Prentice-Hall (New Jersey, 1990); Levine, A-J. and Brettler, M. Z., The Jewish Annotated New Testament, Second Edition, Oxford University Press (Oxford/New York: 2017).
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Diane Willey, nds, Saskatoon, Canada, Bat Kol Alumna 2005, 2006