FROM A READING FOR JULY 12, 15TH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
'In Him, you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in Him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit...' -- Ephesians 1:13


Listening to Sunday's three readings, there's no doubt God has especially called us.

The disciple of Paul responsible for the letter to the Ephesians says it best (Eph 1:3-14): "God chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before Him....In Him we were also chosen, 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 who first hoped in Christ."

We're not an historical accident. God not only brought us into existence, Jesus has chosen us to carry on His ministry. According to the author, should we doubt our having been chosen, we simply have to reflect on the fact that Jesus' Spirit has become an essential part of our life. We don't have such a powerful Spirit because of our looks, but because of what Jesus has called us to do and be.

Many are chosen
We're certainly not the first people to be chosen by Jesus to carry on His Spirit-guided ministry. Mark tells us in Sunday's Gospel (Mark 6:7-13) that He originally sent out the Twelve to join Him in preaching "repentance."

Scholars tell us that, as an itinerant preacher, Jesus was frequently accompanied by "the Twelve." They were the outward sign of His determination to direct His Good News to all of Israel's 12 tribes, not just to the preeminent tribes of Judah and Benjamin. He presumed all Yahweh's Chosen People were actually chosen - chosen to change their value systems so they could experience God working effectively in their daily lives.

In Sunday's Gospel, He teaches His specially-chosen 12 disciples that the message He entrusts to them is more important than anything else they'd experience on their journey. They should concentrate only on the essentials. Where they stay or what they eat is insignificant.

It doesn't even matter whether they fail or succeed in their preaching. He expects them to understand the importance of their message. Those chosen by God must always make certain their priorities are God's priorities.

Yet, as we hear in Amos' encounter with Amaziah (Amos 7:12-15), in difficult times we have to keep reminding ourselves that we're actually set aside by God for God's work. We can't waver in that conviction, as Amos seems to do: How can he tell Amaziah, "I'm no prophet?" He certainly looks and talks like a prophet.

Paid prophets
Realizing that the normal biblical way to surface Yahweh's word in our lives is to surface the prophets in our lives, priests and kings in ancient Israel created a system of "shrine and court prophets" - individuals on the payroll of the priests and kings, who supplied visitors to their shrines and advisors in their palace with the "word of God" the priests and kings wanted the visitors and advisors to hear.

Given this system, Amaziah thinks all he has to do is tell Amos, "Off with you, visionary; flee to the land of Judah! There earn your bread by prophesying, but never again prophesy in Bethel." He expects Amos to obey him like all his other "prophets" obey him. When Amos shouts, "I'm no prophet," he's saying, "I'm not on your payroll!" Yahweh told him to prophesy, not Amaziah.

Perhaps one reason we cave in under pressure when we're trying to carry on Jesus' ministry is that we're not convinced Jesus has called us to be "other Christs." We should reread Ephesians 1. There's no reason we can't be as certain of our calling as Amos was of his.