Sunday, July 11
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 6: 7 – 13
Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two
and gave them authority over unclean spirits.
He instructed them to take nothing for the journey
but a walking stick—
no food, no sack, no money in their belts.
They were, however, to wear sandals
but not a second tunic.
He said to them,
“Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave.
Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you,
leave there and shake the dust off your feet
in testimony against them.”
So they went off and preached repentance.
The Twelve drove out many demons,
and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
The first reading is taken for the Book of the Prophet Amos. Amos was about eight centuries before the birth of Jesus. The Kingdom of Israel was for the most part experiencing a time of peace and prosperity especially for the rich. It was also a period of social, religious, and political decadence. The people were being unfaithful to God in so many areas of their lives. The leaders were not too happy with what Amos had to say, especially because Amos was not one of them. He was from the land of Judah. He was an outsider coming into their territory and delivering a message that called them to repent and transform. The people did not want to hear the voice of the prophet. They did not want to change. They sent him away. Basically, Amos responded to this rejection by saying, “Look, here’s the thing, I am a grower of sycamore trees and I was very happy doing that. I did not want this role of prophet but God called me and I have to respond to that call.”
Then we fast forward to the time of Jesus as told by Mark. Jesus has sent the disciples out two-by-two to heal the sick, preach repentance, and spread his message. He warns them that not everyone will want to hear their voices.
As we receive these readings in our time in history we wonder what might they have to say for us today in July of 2021?
A couple of weeks ago I received a package from Amazon containing a book that I did not order. The book is a copy of the poem, “The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman. You may remember her as the “skinny black girl descended from slaves” who stepped to the platform to deliver her address at the Inauguration of President Biden.
I have read and reread this poem as it intertwined with today’s readings. I have prayed and reflected with all three readings. As we begin to reenter the stream of life with the lifting of COVID restrictions, I have also done a lot of reflecting on the past 16 months of COVID-time. I was motivated to do that by the words from Amanda Gorman’s poem: “ When the day comes, we ask ourselves; where can we find light in this everlasting shade? The loss we carry, a sea we must wade … somehow we weather and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished.”
In both readings of today’s liturgy, we read of people who would not hear the message; refused to listen to the messenger. Almost every preacher I have heard (including myself) reflect on these readings, remind us that not everyone will want to hear God’s message, but, as disciples, we have to keep on trying. We have to keep on preaching the message of Jesus. Yet, as I reflected on the last 16 months, I am more drawn to the ones who would not listen rather than the disciples.
If you have watched the horrific unfolding of the tragedy in Surfside, Florida you undoubtedly heard, “…not in America”, or “this can’t be happening in America”, or “these things don’t happen in America”.
Over the past sixteen months, I have heard myself say those exact same things. When day after day the numbers of people contracting COVID and dying from this virus continue to rise. The numbers for the United States are now 33,724,923 cases and 605,582 deaths (with both numbers continuing to rise). I kept saying, “no, not in America,” “this can’t be happening in America,” and I wondered why we would not listen to the voices of medical professionals, or to the scientists?”
I still cannot get the image of the murder of George Floyd by Derek Chauvin out of my mind or my heart. I watched in utter disbelief and I said “no, not in America,” and I wonder why we do not hear the cries of racism and bigotry and listen to those who are calling for a different way so that we can heal these social injustices and begin to change?
I watched in horror as the riot in our nation’s capital unfolded and escalated into more and more violence. I keep saying, “this can’t be happening in America,” and I wonder why do we not hear the voices of hatred and implicit and explicit bias from within ourselves or outside ourselves and listen to the messengers who urge us to be part of working for peace and social justice?
I hear nightly of the rising violence and homicides in Columbus metropolitan area because of uncontrolled anger erupting in gun violence and death. I keep saying, “no, not in America,” and I wonder why we will not listen to the voices of those speaking for reasonable gun control policies. Why can’t we hear the voices calling for dialogue to get at the root causes of the anger and hatred?
I read of the pain and suffering, including loss of lives, as so much of our country is experiencing unprecedented heat waves, flooding, fires and drought. I keep saying “no, not in America,” and I wonder why we will not listen to the voices warning of climate changes and destruction of our planet?
I placed my hand on my heart as I heard the Star-Spangled Banner sung on July 4th and heard the words of the Preamble knowing that for all people this is an unrealized dream. I wonder why we will not listen to the voices that are trying to mend the divisions between us. Why we will not listen to the voices working for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all people?
I witness the growing gap between the rich and the poor; the rise in homelessness, hunger, domestic violence, and other social injustices and I keep saying “no, not in America,” and I wonder why we will not listen to the voices of those who proclaim the Gospel. I wonder why we will not listen to Jesus calling us to love God, self and neighbor declaring and praying that we will remember our original oneness?
These readings from today’s liturgy gave me much to reflect upon and to realize that I am often a member of the household that will not listen. I wonder why I will not listen. Is it because I do not want to have to change how I live my life? Do I not want to come face to face with my own racism or bigotry? Maybe I don’t want to face my own “unclean spirits” or the “unclean spirits of my country” that the Gospel wants to drive out: the unclean spirit of addiction, bigotry, environmental abuse, rejection of immigrants, greed, abusive power, complacency, indifference, white privilege, my comfortable lifestyle, my implicit biases, or unhealthy isolationism or whatever “unclean spirit” that has hold of me and keeps me deaf to the messengers of social, political, environmental and religious change that God has sent to me, to us, in our time and in our age.
As much as I would like to think that I’m one of the messengers, I have to face it –Deafness and rejection of God’s messengers is in America, it is in me and maybe in you, too. I am all too often among those who will not listen and I wonder what I will do about that?
Sr. Teresa Tuite, OP