Detailed homily for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
Theme: CALL TO APOSTLESHIP
By: Rev Fr. Gerald Muoka
Homily for Sunday July 11 2021
R1 – Amos 7:12-15
RESP PS – Ps 85:9-14
R2 – Eph 1:3_14
GOSPEL – Mk 6:7-13
Jimmy Carter, the former president of the United States of America, in his autobiography, “Why Not the Best?” shares an incident that made him aware of his failure in his mission to evangelize by bearing witness to Christ. One day, he was asked to speak at a church seminar in Georgia. The topic he was assigned was “Christian Witnessing.” As he sat in his Study Room, writing and thinking, he decided he would make a great impression upon the audience by sharing with them how many home visits he made for God. He figured in the fourteen years since returning from the Navy he had conducted 140 visits. As Carter sat there, he began to reflect on the 1966 governorship election. As he campaigned for the state’s highest office, he spent sixteen to eighteen hours a day trying to reach as many voters as possible. At the conclusion of the campaign, Carter calculated that he met more than 300,000 Georgians. As he sat in his Study Room, the truth became evident to him. “The comparison struck him–300,000 visits for myself in three months, and 140 visits for God in fourteen years,” E choke?
Beloved in Christ, Jesus, puts similar questions to us today, “How many people have we told about Jesus? How many lives have we touched and won for Jesus? Or rather, have we been quite selfish meeting and winning people for ourselves and our own selfish goals alone?”
The readings of today’s liturgy remind us that each Christian is sent with a preaching and evangelizing mission as an apostle; whether as a clergyman, religious or lay faithful.
St Teresa of Avila rightly put it: “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, you are the eyes, you are his body. Christ Has no body now on earth but yours.” What a great and privileged mission assigned to mere weak, mortal and tepid humans.
The first reading (Amos 7:12-15), reminds us that we do not need professionalism or formal priestly or prophetic education to become a witness, apostle or prophet; since by the virtue of our baptism we share in the priestly, kingly and prophetic munera of Christ. However, we see Amos, an ordinary shepherd and tree-dresser being elevated and called by God to speak against the social injustice in the Northern Kingdom of Israel at Bethel, from the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Amos defended his prophetic role with courage. Like Amos, we are chosen by God, through the mystery of Divine adoption in Jesus, to become apostles and missionaries in preaching the “Good News,” as Christians.
St Paul in the second reading makes it clear that, ab initio, God equipped and blessed us for the task of being sent as apostles and missionaries by our lives through a holy and blameless attitude.
While in today’s Gospel (Mk 6:1-13), the evangelist tells the story of Jesus’ commissioning of the twelve apostles to preach the “Good News” of repentance, forgiveness of sins, liberation, and salvation through Jesus.
*APOSTLESHIP (APOSTOLOS) VERSUS DISCIPLESHIP ((DISCIPULUS)*
The Gospel of today’s liturgy, emphasizes the call to apostleship, not just discipleship. A Christian is not only called to be a disciple but also to be an apostle, very paramount! A disciple is a student (discipulus) or one who hears, who accepts and who carries out the teaching of Jesus in his/her life. A disciple follows Jesus, imitates Jesus, and becomes a second Christ (alter Christus) . Whereas, an apostle, as suggested by it’s Greek root, “ἀπόστολος” (apostolos), meaning, “one who is sent off;” from στέλλειν (“stellein”), “to send” + από (apó), “off, away from.” So, an apostle is not only a follower but also an evangelizer – someone sent off to show others the way, by his words and deed. He is to be sent on a mission with a message from a superior – an ambassador, an envoy. Every person who has been baptized has this mission and this calling, actively to share their faith with others. We work with the Lord to help people find or recover their freedom. We help people to cure their sicknesses, physical, psychological and emotional.
Furthermore, he sent them in pairs and asked them not to carry with them any earthly material goods which would be an obstacle in their mission work.
Why did Jesus send the Apostles in pairs? Because according to Jewish law, two witnesses were needed to pronounce a truth. Going two-by-two brought with it the authority of official witnesses. Secondly, by Jesus’ instructions not to go with haversack, it is clear that his disciples should take no supplies for the road but simply trust in God for their requirements. God is the Provider and security of an apostle, the defender of the truth. Jesus’ instructions also suggest that the apostles should not be like the acquisitive priests of their time, who were interested only in gaining riches, because the truth is suffocated and stifled when an apostle is interested in filling his pocket (Ikpe mara eziokwu aka azu di na ya).
(1) *AVAILABILITY AND PROMPTNESS ARE HALLMARKS OF AN APOSTLE*
The mission of the twelve attained a huge success because of their admirable sense of availability. They simply made themselves available for the mission. Amos’ availability was phenomenal too. He hesitated not. We too, as Christians must adopt such apostolic readiness and availability for the mission.
On another hand, both the twelve apostles and Amos, embraced their prophetic and apostolic mission with promptness. The apostles entertained no delay or procrastination like many of us today in following Jesus. The scripture says that they immediately left their nets and fathers and followed him. God hates procrastination. Arrest the call with immediacy and promptness. To the man who said, let me go and tell my people and bury the deceased, he frowned at.
(2) *OPPOSITION STRENGTHENS AN APOSTLE*
The first reading warns us that our witnessing mission will be opposed and rejected, as happened to the Old Testament prophets like Amos. Amos condemned the cozy lifestyle of priests who supported the king and the rich and ignored the oppression of the poor. The angry chief priest, Amaziah of Bethel in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, told Amos to take his prophesying back to his own country, the Southern Kingdom of Judah, because they did not want to listen to his prophecy in Bethel – ona akuru ha oru. There are people who wouldn’t like to hear the truth. But the master insists the truth must be told.
(3) *APOSTLESHIP IS MORE TO LIFE WITNESSING THAN PREACHING*
William J. Toms once said, “Be careful how you live. You may be the only Bible some person ever reads.”
Not all is vested with the grace of giving to the mission by going via preaching, but all is called and sent to witness by our lives, preeminently, in our homes, families, communities and various walks of life. The apostle were first called Christians in Antioch not because of their preachings, rather, because of their way of life (Acts 11:26).
Finally, during the American Civil War, President Lincoln had a strapping athletic young man as his secretary. In those days, like in the Biafran Civil War, everyone would be happy pushing for the pen or pencil as a secretary, instead of being at the dangers at the war front. This particular man was not happy about it. He wanted to get out where the action was – on the battlefield. He wanted to go out and do great things for his country. He was quite willing to die for his country. So he kept complaining to Lincoln about the women’s work he was doing, when he could be in uniform confronting the enemy. After hearing the usual complaint one day, Lincoln stared at him, rubbed his hands in his beard and said in his philosophical way, “Young man, as I see it, you are quite willing to die for your country, but you are not ready to live for it.” Remember, “μάρτυρ” (martur), just a Greek word for witness, gives his/her life by dying or by living.
Beloved, everybody must not be at the battle field in order to show commitment. Everyone must not mount the pulpit in order to preach the Good News. This is what our age has refused to accept, especially, in Africa — God has called me — Yet hatred and immorality are on the increase. You cannot die for Christ if you are not willing to live your life for him. Be an apostle to someone today!
MAY GOD STRENGTHEN OUR COURAGE AND FAITHFULNESS AS COMMITTED AND FAITHFUL WITNESSES OF THE GOOD NEWS.
*GOD BLESS YOU!*
*FR GERALD MUOKA*