The gospel today, the 15th Sunday of the Year, focusses on the mission of the 12. Mission did not begin with them and the first reading at Mass today reminds us of the prophet Amos.
Bearer of a profound critique of Israel, Amos was no willing prophet, nor welcome in Israel. But he served the Lord, faithfully and well.
Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, said to Amos, ‘Go away, seer;’ get back to the land of Judah; earn your bread there, do your prophesying there. We want no more prophesying in Bethel; this is the royal sanctuary, the national temple.’
‘I was no prophet, neither did I belong to any of the brotherhoods of prophets,’ Amos replied to Amaziah ‘I was a shepherd, and looked after sycamores: but it was the Lord who took me from herding the flock, and the Lord who said, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”’
Amos had two jobs, sheep and trees. Now he had a third – reminding Israel of its true nature, of being a communion of people with God. It had no independent existence. Did not need its national king, it’s national Temple. God alone sufficed and more than sufficed. And without God all else was petty and transient. And so it proved. Israel fell and was lost.
Today’s Gospel has the 12 – noble in their vocation and trust, but scarcely in their economic state or social position, sent out to recover a people for God: by God to help his people heal and be reconciled. They are more succesful in their mission than Amos was!
- In whom do we trust?
- How do we know?
- Would others agree?
The image above is not of remnants of Bethel but of Samaria, another Israelite Royal cultic centre against which Amos prophesied. Here is a 19th Century image of the believed site of the city of Bethel.