15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
July 15, 2012

The two words that came to mind after reading today’s first reading – the sending away of Amos from Bethel and his banishment to Judah – are simply “so what?”
 So what if Bethel were the “king’s sanctuary and a royal temple?” Amos, who was ruffling not just a few feathers and rattling the nerves of those who were being hard hit, just could not be tolerated any more. Amaziah himself, supposedly a “man of the cloth” sort of, acted as spokesman and told him what was almost like a death sentence for the outspoken and truthful prophet: “Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah!”

Flimsy reasons; phony rationalizations! The words of Amaziah were nothing but plain baloney!

Last week, we spoke partly about rejection. I reminded you about my own experience of being unwanted and downright rejected. I also reminded everyone how we share a lot of things in common, for each and everyone of us had that not-too-easy-to-forget experiences that kept us anxious, if not, sleepless, or even angry, many a time.

Well, today, we have more of such bad news! Again, Amos figures in prominently. Again, Amos rises to the occasion and came out more than just a winner, but one worthy of emulation by touchy people like you and me. Amos, brought down by rejection and banishment, only had more truthful words to answer the cruel Amaziah: “I was no prophet, nor have I belonged to a company of prophets. I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. The Lord took me from following the flock, and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’”

Flimsy reasons and phony rationalizations could not put a good man down. Lies and deceit and manipulative tactics could not make the good prophet veer off course. He stood his ground. He stayed the course. And he rocked the boat as he stood proud and tall!

Last week, too, we spoke about Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.” We surmised, tentatively, that that thorn could have been either literal or figurative. If it were literal, we sure know nothing about it, for he wasn’t telling or giving us clues. If it were figurative, then there is no compelling reason for us not to imagine it could also have been about rebellious people who not only refused to listen to him, but downright rejected him. Paul, too, like Amos – like all prophets who stood their grounds and stood up for the truth – were all rejected and unwanted!

Again, like Amos, Paul triumphed even in weakness … even in rejection … even in seeming defeat. He even finds time to “bless God” and declare his overflowing sense of thanksgiving to the Lord, not with flimsy reasons and phony rationalizations, but objective and authentic reasons: first, “he has blessed us in Christ.” Second, “he chose us in Him.” Third, “in love, he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ.” Fourth, “in him we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of transgressions.” Fifth, “he has made known to us the mystery of his will.” And sixth, “in him we were chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will.”

Don’t you just see the big irony in the cases of Amos and Paul? Two unwanted people. Two rejected characters. Two who both made so many uncomfortable. Sent out and banished each in their own way, both came out swinging and proclaiming the praises and blessedness of God! No amount of flimsy reasons and phony rationalizations could make them throw in the towel.

My thoughts go to all those who have been called and sent … like prophets of old. My heart extends to fellow priests who toil and labor in the Lord’s vineyard, and who, at this particular time, may be facing their own version of banishment and rejection. Some of that rejection may come from deep within themselves. They could be hurting emotionally and psychologically, on account of deep wounds inflicted by others in the past. Some of that may come from their perceived superiors and those who in some way supervise them. Take it from me who has “been there; done that” … Whilst it is true that the Church is a mother, it is also true that superiors are not, and they, too, could also be hurting for one reason or another. Some of that can come from fellow ministers, or brother priests. It is no secret that when the machinery called clerical envy begins to churn, what comes out in the end is a lot of wounded egos, hurt feelings, and broken friendships.

But a great deal of it can come actually from the very recipients of the mission of the apostle or the prophet. A lot of it can come from certain interesting characters in the parish community or school community who simply “do not welcome” nor “listen.”

I got good news for you and me … We who have “been there; done that,” who have passed that way of suffering once – or many – times before know everything there is to know about pain. One, it does not come from God. Just take it from Paul who went right on blessing and thanking God despite the pains. Second, it does not have the final word on us. It does not have the last laugh at our expense. Third, we are re-engineered and re-programmed for greatness, for we “were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the first installment of our inheritance as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory.”

As a priest over the past 30 years (almost), I have been through the way of blame. When things went wrong, I was not beyond blaming God and getting angry at Him. I have heard so many vent their anger at God, for allowing them to suffer so much. Some of them choose to stay away, and stay angry, for many reasons, all flimsy and phony rationalizations.

I choose now to go on believing. I choose to follow the gentle nudge of the Spirit who prays in us, with us and for us: “Lord, let me see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.” These are my reasons, weighty and meaty, and certain: “I will hear what God proclaims.” “Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss.” “Truth shall spring out from the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven.” “The Lord himself will give his benefits; our land shall yield its increase.”

Reasons galore! Reasons … not just flimsy reasons and phony rationalizations … but reasons of faith, reasons of hope, and reasons for love!


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