Homily Fifteenth Sunday Year B: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
- Amos 7:12-15;
- Ps 85:9-14;
- Eph 1:3-14
- Mark 6:7-13
Divine Missionary Journeys and Benefits!
Pope Francis in his first Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaiudium, the Joy of the Gospel, sees the Church, all of us, as a prophetic and as a missionary church; a community that should goes forth, that go out there to preach the gospel, irrespective of our locations, geography and culture! This is what we celebrate today, a Christ who sends us out on a mission. In fact, three verbs in today’s scriptures support this mission. These are, the verbs “to go,” to choose,” and “to send.” They are used in relations to the ministries of the major characters mentioned in today’s readings: the prophet Amos, St. Paul and the Twelve disciples selected and sent by Jesus in the Gospel.
Like the prophet Amos sent to preach in Bethel, or like Jesus who chose and sent his Twelve out, God calls us from different areas, homes, occupations, and families. He sends us to different places. He expects us to go without fear, without anxieties, without much worry, to respond generously under the different circumstances, challenges and locations that we may find ourselves, knowing and hoping for divine blessings that awaits us!
Sometimes this is easier said than done. Personally, I still remember few years ago around the months of June 15 to July 7, I was chosen by the Dean of our Seminary/School of Theology, where I teach to join in leading and directing a pilgrimage and archaeological study trip to the Holy Land. Since I have been there before, in fact, several times, as a student and as I teacher, 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 in the Holy Land. 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. I experienced such a spiritual joy and benefits than my previous trips. We had morning prayers and daily Masses at significant places. Starting from Jerusalem, we 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 Caesarea Philippi/Marittima, 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- Capernaum, 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, and the United States were amazing in faith, knowledge and experiences. Till today we remain friends in Christ.
The spiritual and pastoral benefits of the journey were 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 Gethsemane and in the Church of Crucifixion/ Holy Sepulcher benefited all of us spiritually.
Some of you may also have 100s if not 1000s of personal stories to tell that sound like my—initially hesitating, but finally with the grace of God sayings, “yes Lord, here I am, I come to do your will.” This is what the ancient prophet Amos, of today’s first reading did. As a farmer, he was chosen and selected by God to go from his southern home town of Tekoa and prophecy or mission to God’s people in the north. It was not an easy mission for him.
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. He risked his life by confronting Amaziah and Jeroboam and by condemning their false sense of healing, worship and spirituality.
Similarly, the Twelve chosen by Christ in today’s gospels, and commissioned in pairs to evangelize, preach repentance, heal, anoint and cure diseases, never had it easy. They faced challenges such as the need to travel light, go without food, money and excess tunics.
In each of this case, be it that of Amos or the twelve chosen and sent by Christ, God’s blessings and divine grace were sufficient unto them. Saint Paul, in the 2nd reading, Ephesian 1:3-14 speaks of these blessings and divine providence and spiritual benefits on our journeys especially when we trust the Lord. Saint Paul who also experienced mission first hand, 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…”
In other words, we are the Amos(s) of today. We are the Twelve of today. We are the Saint Paul(s) of today. The Lord has called us in our respective roles to prophesy with courage, love, hope and share our faith with joy. 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.
- Do we see ourselves as part of the church, the twelve, the Paul(s), and the Amos(s) sent on mission?
- What are the challenges that we face in our various places of missions or services
- How do we help ourselves or assist others to draw inspiration from the prophetic faith and missionary stories handed to us in the scriptures?