Homily: No Carry-ons Allowed

Our readings today plunge us headlong into the harsh realities of following Jesus totally: utter rejection and total dependence on God.

In the first reading, Amaziah, a priest of the royal shrine of Bethel in Israel, is throwing Amos the prophet out of the shrine, telling him to go home and make a real living like ordinary people. Amos replies that he is no prophet, that is, no court-appointed prophet in the employ of the King or the established church. He had a real occupation; he was an ordinary shepherd and a tree-pruner, who had been seized unaccountably by the call of the Lord and sent to prophesy to Israel. Then, in the Gospel, Jesus commissions the 12 disciples to adopt the prophetic lifestyle of itinerant preachers, carrying only a walking stick and no backpack, relying on the hospitality of others for their sustenance.

They are given power over evil, and called to confront evil, preach repentance, heal the sick in that place and move on The lack of material support, food, money and sack (briefcase) and their dependence on

hospitality from others are signs of their total reliance on God and of their freedom

This lifestyle seems strange and even harsh to us today, and it was not really normative even in the early church. Still, it has lasting value. First the Twelve are to represent in their lives the actions of Jesus, even though Jesus is not with them. Today people often ask where Jesus is amid disputes over authority in the church, endless meetings and projects for renewal or escalating signs of wealth and prestige. Yet people like Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa or Jean Vanier traveled light and made people ask where Jesus is truly found. The rejection of the disciples and the advice simply to continue to other places reminds those who proclaim God’s message that certain approaches may be fruitless, and that sometimes it is just time to move on. Though thrown out of the shrine, Amos moves on and delivers his strongest denunciations of those who “trample on the needy and bring the poor of the land to ruin. Awareness of God’s call, traveling light and risking rejection, these are the “carry-ons” for true prophets. John R Donahue

Irish monks in the Middle Ages would sometimes be set adrift, literally, in just this way, hoping to land somewhere as missionaries, but realizing that they may just as likely drown. They were only a little braver than the average bride and groom, the new parents, or even established parents of young teens, or the young person starting out a career in a new company or firm. They looked only a little more precarious bobbing over the horizon that into uncharted waters, with hope and faith, and trust in an all-seeing God.

That is what all of our readings are about today. About doing any work for which one has very little formal preparation. It is essentially a book about what almost everybody I know is doing almost every day of his or her life. Garret Keiser

In other words, Jesus lived out and passed on to his disciples not only what it means to be engaged, but especially what it means to be vulnerable. They were to go to people they didn’t know and rely on them day by day for food and shelter from the elements.

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