15th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B (2021): Amos 7:12-15; Eph 1:3-14; Mk 6:7-13
Sunday, July 11, 2021
Authenticity is among the most sought after and attractive qualities in a person, community, institution and way of life. It is the essential remedy to the too easy tendency to regress into hypocrisy, both real and perceived, which in turn leads to scandal, both real and perceived.
There is something inherent in us the demands for authenticity in people and feels hurt and repulsed when it is not found, causing may to react strongly to those we view as hypocrites against the values and principles by say to practice and preach and succumbing to the pain of scandal, which we will be reminded Jesus said can become a millstone that will be placed around their necks and feel the crushing weight of its consequences.
Because of the pain hypocrisy and scandal bring, it is necessary that each of us continually seek out examples of those who were authentic and humble, and for us as Catholic Christians, to imitate those examples we find in both the Bible and life and history of our Church.
The Old Testament prophets are among the most inspiring examples of humble authenticity. They loved God and knew how to persevere in extremely difficult circumstances, but this did not prevent them from speaking very bluntly and honestly with God.
Jeremiah cried out why God continued to dupe him and lead him to persecution, Isaiah lamented that he might die for seeing the glory of God as a sinful man unworthy to see the Almighty, and today we hear the prophet Amos bluntly testify that He was totally inadequate to be a prophet.
Humbly, he was not telling God how to be God, but authentically told others that I am a dresser of Sycamore trees, not a trained prophet, I am not qualified for this, God could have found someone else who is better trained and holier than he was for this work, but God choose him for this task and he lived this vocation, even if he did not see himself as properly fitting the mould of being a prophet of God.
Amos teaches us an important lesson: We can honestly tell both God and others that we do not see ourselves properly prepared for the tasks set before us, that we may fall short of the high standards expected of us and that others are more qualified to do the work we have been called by God to do. But this humility does not mean we then run away because we are lacking in our vocations. Rather, it is to say “very well God, others can do this work better than I, but you need me right now to step up and do the best I can.” May we have the humility to do so as we are called!
St. Paul is another shining example of authenticity. Unlike Amos, St Paul was very well prepared and skilled as a preacher, prophet and bishop. He was given insights into the faith and a way to articulate them that few have been able to imitate. Was he to squander those gifts and not share them, he would have been a hypocrite in his own right, selfishly hiding the talents he had been given and only using them to advance his own status and influence instead of using them to inspire others to walk humbly in faith.
His Letter to the Ephesians is shining example of both his authentic love of God and humble recognition that He must share the spiritual and theological insights that the Holy Spirit had given him, even if some thought him overly pompous or preachy in sharing these teachings.
Too often people who speak boldly of their faith or speak with eloquence and support of the Church when members of our Church are rightly and wrongly accused of sinful behaviour, they are said to be hypocrites and the only response is to shut their mouths and not dare to speak of the good done in Christ’s name.
St Paul shows that to be authentic means to speak the truth because it is beautiful and to defend the People of God because they are God’s beloved, while also humbly admitting the wrongs that have been done throughout the ages by members of the Faithful, and not being too ashamed to admit when we have gone astray and needed to be corrected if we did not live as the disciples Christ called us to be.
Finally, Jesus’ instructions to the Apostles are our last example of authenticity today. Jesus was very real with the 12. He did not deceive them to think that by following him things would always be great.
Rather, they needed to steel their hearts and know they would receive very little materially for their work, that there would be times they would be rejected and would in turn need to dust off their feet as a sign that they were rejected, that they would do battle with the forces of evil, and that would often be frightening, and that they would have the power to heal others, but that meant they would have to first seek out or welcome those who wanted to be healed and realise that can be a difficult thing to do.
Jesus never lied to the 12 about how challenging things would be, and in that way, he did not scandalise them (minus the one who betrayed him), even if he did scandalize others who through their own lack of humility and authenticity took offence at him for proclaiming and living the truth that comes from God.
My dear friends in Christ, let us not be afraid to examine our lives and ask just how much authenticity marks our conduct. Like Amos, let us humbly admit our shortcomings so God can encourage us in our weakness to carry out His work. Like St Paul, let us authentically share the gifts of faith we have been given, even if we are perceived poorly for doing so. Like the Apostles, let us trust Jesus in the ways He wants us to come and follow Him, knowing that whatever trials we face will also bring many blessings, ones we perceive and ones hidden to the heart of God alone.
If you remain unable to receive Holy Communion at this time, I invite you today to make a Spiritual Communion, using the following formula or one of your own choosing:
I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen."
St. Alphonsus di Liguori
In Jesus through Mary, Fr. Nathan