Homily (2) 15th Sunday Year B: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
Readings: Amos 7:12-15; Ps 85:9-14; Eph 1:3-14 and Mark 6:7-13
Divine journeys, Divine Benefits!
For me three verbs, three actions words run through today's lessons. They are the verbs “to go,” to choose,” and “to send.” They are used in relations to the ministries of the, prophet Amos, St. Paul and the Twelve disciples selected and sent by Jesus in the Gospel. With these verbs, we are reminded of the God whom we celebrate today. We celebrate today a God who sends all of us on a divine journey. Like the prophet Amos sent to preach in Bethel, like Jesus who sends the chose and sent his Twelve out, God calls us from different areas. He sends us to different places. He expects us to respond generously under the different circumstances and locations that we may find ourselves.
Personally, these past couple of weeks (June 15 to July 7) I was chosen by the Dean of our Seminary/School of Theology, where I teach to join in leading a pilgrimage and archaeological study trip to the Holy Land. Since I have been there before, in fact, several times, I know the challenges of the hot weather, dehydration, long flight to a contested zone among the Jews, Palestinians, Moslems and Christians, and frightening machine guns you see in the hands of security agents, here and there! This journey is also time consuming. While digging you role on the dirt, breath in and out a lot of dust. With these and many other challenging reasons, I thought of declining the invitation. But the spirit of the Lord said to me, “Michael do this, I am sending you, go lead the students, my future ministers to the Holy Land. I listened to the Lord. It turned out to be very good and refreshing. With morning prayers and daily Masses in significant places, we started out from Jerusalem, went to the city of David, Hezekiah’s tunnel, St. Peter Galligantu, Temple Mount, Western Wall.
In Nazareth we visited and celebrated Masses at Saint Joseph’s Chapel and in the Church of the Annunciation- took part in rosary and candle procession. Explored Bethlehem and celebrated Mass in the church of the Nativity. Visited, Masada, Jericho, swam on the Dead Sea, went to En Gedi and Qumran Community. We were also at Ceserea Philipii/Maritami, Beth shan, Hatzor, Meggido and Dan. In Galilee we walked and lived the evangelical triangle of Jesus- places, he walked and performed most of his ministry- Carpenaum, Chorazin, Tiberias, Mts. of Beatitude, and Tabor, Kursi, Magdala, Bania, and Bethsaida.
Doing excavation in Bethsaida was fun. Lots of finds were discovered that link us to stories we read in the Bible. The people we met from different institutions including Australia, Canada, Israel, Africa, the United States were amazing in faith, knowledge and experiences. The spiritual and pastoral benefits of the journey was overwhelming. It was worth listening to the voice of the Lord, to “go to the Holy Land,” again! I saw it as God’s Will. And I did it for the common good and the glory of God!
Walking the station of the cross publicly in the busy road of via dolorosa and celebrating Masses in the Church of all nations/garden of Gethsameni and in the Church of Crucifixion/ Holy Sepulchre benefited all of us spiritually.
Reflecting on this, helps me think of the ancient prophet Amos, a farmer, who was chosen and selected by God to go from the southern Israel and prophecy to God’s people in the north. As I thought of the risk in the Holy Land, Amos must have thought of the risk of confronting the priests, the religious and socio-political powers of the north. He knew he might be misunderstood and perhaps rejected. Even , with this, he risked his life in , countering Amaziah and Jeroboam, in the first reading, that he was not a hungry and misleading visionary. He was never in the company of those false prophets of his time, nor did he ever preached or advertised himself and his prophetic ministry for pay checks and material gains. All that he knew was that he was once a farmer. From his farm the Lord chose him to go from the south and prophesy to his people- all Israel! His duty was to respond generously to the Lord’s choosing!
Similarly, the Lord chose the Twelve in today’s Gospel and sent them out in twos to evangelize, preach repentance, anoint and cure diseases. They faced challenges. But the must endure such challenges hardships- travel light, no food, no money and tunics. A walking stick, a sign of God’s power, choice, election, providence, blessings, and authority, as Moses once had was enough.
Saint Paul , in the 2nd reading, Ephesian 1:3-14 speaks of these blessings and divine providence and spiritual benefits on our journeys, when we trust the Lord. Paul says, “ In him we were also chosen(ekglegomai),destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory…”
We are the Amos of today. We are the Twelve of today and the Saint Pauls of today. The Lord calls us to prophesy with courage, love, hope and faith. Like the Amos and the Twelve he sends us to bear witness to him in different situations and circumstances of or lives’ journeys, as priests, pastors, religious lay men and women in families, offices and factories. Though we are aware of the inevitable social and cultural challenges, political rejections, economic temptations, dust, dirt, stress, long journeys, long flights, but abundant spiritual benefit s and redemptions await us when we endure the cost of witnessing to the Lord!