One of the most challenging tasks facing a Pastor is how to create unity in a parish. There are so many forces pulling apart or dividing the community. However, this is so very human. People tend to remain within the groups that make them comfortable. They gather in their favorite groups. Often it is difficult for them to move into other groups of people with whom they are unfamiliar.
In parishes this happens with Mass time communities, with language groups and with ministries.
In other worldly pursuits this happens also with groups like neighborhoods, professional societies, labor unions, political parties and even gangs.
However, as Christians we are called to unity in our mission to call people to Jesus Christ. Jesus does not call us to stay within our comfort zones. That actually works against the unity of our common Mission to call people to repentance and salvation.
In the first reading we see some of this with the prophet Amos. Amos was from Judah in the south of what was called Israel. He was a shepherd and a “dresser of sycamores”, or a “cultivator of figs”.
However, God intervened and sent him as a prophet to “Israel”, the ten northern tribes that were soon to disappear.
After Kings David and Solomon, Israel broke into two kingdoms, the northern Kingdom of ten tribes that Amos refers to as Israel. Judah referred to the two tribes Benjamin and Judah in the south. We know that the ten tribes rebelled against God and began to worship idols and practice abominations. They broke unity with God’s people. After rebelling against God, they were later conquered by Syria. They ceased to exist as a kingdom, but were absorbed into a succession of other political entities, like Syria.
Amos was sent by God to warn them of impending disaster, and to call them back to unity as the nation of Israel that God had formed with all of the twelve tribes.
In the northern kingdom of Israel professional prophets began to appear and serve the king, like a labor union or syndicate of people who claimed to be prophets. They were more like “wise men” or magicians. One of the professional prophets of Bethel in Israel thought Amos was just another opportunistic professional prophet like those in the north. The northern prophets were resentful that this interloper, Amos, was horning in on their territory, and said,
“Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah!
There earn your bread by prophesying,
but never again prophesy in Bethel;
for it is the king’s sanctuary and a royal temple.”
The prophet Amos responded that God had sent him from Judah to Israel, telling him,
“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.”
Unlike the professional prophets, God is the sender of prophets, not man. Amos was explaining that he had no choice. Amos was no professional. God sent him to call the northern tribes to come back to unity and to God’s protection.
And, so it is with missionaries. The mission is never our mission, but God’s mission.
And so, we learn something very important about missions and missionaries. The mission belongs to God. We are called to obedience to God. And, the mission is always a call to reunion. Lost sheep are called to join God’s chosen people. That is our prophetic role, whether we belong to Christ Renews His Parish or SINE or Knights of Columbus or a choir. Our prophetic role is to call people to repentance and salvation in Jesus Christ.
By virtue of our Baptism and Confirmation, we are all missionaries. We are charged with going out, even to new, strange places to spread the word of God and His promises. Governments don’t like missionaries, but missionaries and prophets don’t belong to the government, but to God. We must now become missionaries to our country to proclaim God’s view of marriage. It is not convenient or comfortable, but it is necessary.
In the Gospel, Jesus sends out the disciples on their training missions, two by two. We are accountable for our mission work to our brothers and the community. Having mission partners keeps us focused on our message and mission.
What is the objective of mission work?
Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two
and gave them authority over unclean spirits.
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.
Our role, the work of Baptized Christians, disciples of Jesus Christ, is the salvation of the world.
We cannot do our work if we insist upon staying within our favorite little groups. People get comfortable and stuck in ministries and Bible studies. We forget about Jesus’ commandment to “Go, make disciples of all nations”.
English-speaking communities often dare not to go among their Hispanic brothers and sisters, and Hispanics do the same. People involved in liturgical service tend to think that liturgical service is ministry. No, liturgical service in worship. We are all called to worship. But by our Baptism we are called to make disciples, to get out of our comfort zones and expand God’s kingdom on earth.
If you have not ventured out into the deep, perhaps that is what God is waiting for from you, to get out of your comfort zone, “preach repentance” and call people to unity in the Kingdom of God.