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the Gospel

 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinJuly 11, 2003 Issue 

Discipleship is a challenging role

We praise God for who he is and what he has done to and for us

July 13, 2003 -- Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Fr. Richard Ver Bust

Fr. Richard Ver Bust
Fr. Richard Ver Bust

Today's readings may help us understand the role of being a disciple and its difficulties. The alternate opening prayer says it well, "May your love make us what you have called us to be." It is that call in which God invites us to believe and follow that is the start of what we may become. The Gospel acclamation gets it right too when it tells us, "May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ enlighten the eyes of our hearts that we may know what is the hope that belongs to our call."

Mark's gospel gives us an account of the first missionary journey of the twelve. In it Jesus gives very specific instructions to them on how they are to act and what they make take with them. They are to travel light as Jesus has been doing. The sandals and stick are to protect them from snakes and wild animals. The sandals also would protect their feet on the rough paths they would take in traveling through Galilee and Judeah. They are to depend upon God and those who receive them. Their work is not to make others think that what they receive will benefit the minister. Their focus is to reach out to those in need.

Jesus tries to prepare them for the good possibility that they will not be successful. If they think that it will be one glorious adventure they will be in for a shock. Mark, in his gospel, has shown that Jesus reached only a few. So if the master was rejected wouldn't the disciples face the same.

They are not going out on their own to seek disciples for themselves but to encourage others to accept Christ. They are like envoys who have been delegated. Neither the authority nor the message is theirs but belong to the one who has commissioned them.

The reading from the Letter to the Ephesians has a connection to the overall theme. Since the second reading is basically a continued reading not selected because it fits with the others, sometimes we have to reach to find a relationship. This time there is a point of reference, the call from God. It is interesting that the author recognizes that people are called by God not because they are holy but they are called so they might become holy. We become, because of that call, adopted children of God. It is that dignity that gives rise to the whole life which follows.

The first reading tells us of the encounter between Amos the prophet and Amaziah, a priest of the temple. Amaziah refuses to recognize the fact that Amos is a prophet of the God, Yahweh. Amaziah is a representative of the institution especially of the temple. Amos challenges the "status quo" and calls the people to respect and live the covenant made with God. Because the priests and other leaders have failed to live up to that commitment is probably why they feel so strongly against Amos. He is challenging them and their role.

Like the second reading, the point is made that God calls who he wills. God often calls the least likely to act in his name. Amos is a farmer, an itinerant one at that, a dresser of sycamores. The apostles were ordinary people as well. Many of them were fishermen. Paul, the best educated, was also a tentmaker. God made use of these people. They were his instruments. They, like we, are called to continue Jesus' ministry. It is wonderful what God can do. Maybe it reminds us not to call attention to ourselves but to God.

(Fr. Ver Bust holds the title of professor emeritus in religious studies at St. Norbert College, De Pere.)

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