Pastor’s Corner 7/15/2012

While I am on vacation this month, I offer this Reflection for your consideration.

Amos was not part of the religious establishment; he was a shepherd and a fruit grower. Yet through him God spoke, condemning those who trampled on the needy. Amos had hope for the true restoration of Israel as God’s faithful and just people. It was for his forthright preaching that he was reviled and driven from the official sanctuary at Bethel.

Likewise, Jesus was not part of the religious or political establishment, nor were “the Twelve.” They were, like Amos, hard-working common folks—mostly fishermen. Yet Jesus and his followers were the ones who truly proclaimed the coming of God’s reign of justice and love. Although Jesus had no official position in government or religion, he had power and authority rooted in his identity as God’s beloved. He had power over unclean spirits, and he shared that power with those he sent out two by two to proclaim—with that same authority—the coming of God’s reign.

Jesus, and those he called to join in his mission, were able to change things, cast out evil spirits, and bring health and wholeness to their fellow citizens. This they did with little equipment and no complex organization. They brought no extra food, or even a stash of coffee (just in case!). They carried no bag of extra clothes, no briefcase full of notes; they did not bring a laptop computer nor a memory stick. They had neither cash nor debit or credit cards. For food, shelter, and clothing they had to rely on their hosts. Their message was simple and direct; their service was uncomplicated.

The repentance leading to freedom and wholeness for which Jesus and his messengers called was illustrated in their very bearing and disposition. “To repent” means to turn around and change your ways, thinking and acting differently. In other words, to repent is to go beyond your usual way of thinking, feeling and interpreting life, as wall as beyond your usual way of acting. To carry out their mission, those Jesus sent had to let go of their dependence on the security of their possessions and control over how things would go in their lives. Instead they learned to find security in faith and trust in the one who had sent them and in the hospitality of those who would be there to receive them.

God sent Amos to preach justice. Jesus sent out the apostles to preach repentance and to heal. Today God is sending us ordinary human beings no matter what our occupation. Today Jesus is asking us to repent: to reorient our lives and let go of whatever is impeding the manifestation of God’s life and healing power in us. Christ is inviting us—urges us—to pour our energy into announcing God’s reign of justice, healing, and wholeness, not only in word but in our lives and actions. Through Christ, the Spirit of God lives and moves in us—and strengthens us to carry out Christ’s mission whatever particular way we are called.

Katherine Howard, OSB, is a member of Saint Benedict’s Monastery, Saint Joseph, Minnesota, where she works as a spiritual director and writer.

Does the scene of the disciples being sent out two by two bring to mind any other scripture? After the flood, Noah opens the door of the ark and sends his passengers out to renew the face of the earth.

Certainly, Jesus has the same purpose. The purpose is fulfilled in your communion in the Body of Christ today, and in your being sent from the Eucharist into the world. The sending is so important that our word “Mass” derives from it. In Latin, the last words of worship are Ite, missa est, which means “Go, you are sent.” From that, people began to call Catholic worship the missa, or in English, the “Mass.” Our English words dismissal, missal, emissary, and mission are all related. We are not sent into the workaday world alone, but in relationship to one another.

Some people have acquired the unhappy habit of leaving worship as soon as they receive Communion and therefore miss the prayer, the dismissal, and the solemn blessing that are essential parts of the Mass. The dismissal is a seal on our Communion and reveals its purpose. Thanks be to God!

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