15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The 12 apostles seem to have no particular skills or gifts. On the whole they seem a bit slow on the uptake, often made mistakes, run away at the crucifixion and St. Peter appointed as leader denied our Lord three times. And we might ask the same questions about ourselves why have I been chosen to be baptised, to become a Catholic and follow Christ and proclaim the Gospel by my life in my own particular situation. What seems clear is that being clever or brave or a good speaker or a charismatic personality is not considered necessary by Our Lord in those he chooses, including us, to preach the Gospel.
And anyway, no mater how clever or brave or a good speaker or a charismatic person we might be – we still have no right to preach the Gospel – that right that ability comes from the choice and authority of Our Lord. Amos says that in the first reading. ‘I’m a shepherd and I look after sycamore trees, it was the Lord who told me to prophesy”. Maybe that is why the apostles must not take much with them – so there is no risk of confusing what they have with their ability to proclaim the Gospel.
Notice too that the task of the Apostles, the task we share, is not a call to success in the sense of lots of converts. If they listen fine, if they don’t leave them. This isn’t about increasing numbers or building a big following. Its the call to conversion. Our duty to issue that call comes in the same way Amos received his call in that first reading. God calls us to do it. It’s a call we can place with St Paul in the context of the great divine plan which will never be known in its entirety until the end of time.
Now we must be prudent and wise in this task, it is right if we seem to have no success at all, to ask questions, to see if we can give a better example, to examine how our lives proclaim the Gospel, but on the other hand it gives us another way, a consoling way of understanding apparent failure. To take two painful examples, the suffering of parents whose children have lapsed from the faith, and priests who have parents bringing children for baptism, promising before God to bring them up in the faith, but then never coming to church. Both incredibly painful and distressing things.
One response suggested by today’s scriptures is move on. Shake the dust from your feet and move on. That doesn’t mean just go along with the refusal to listen. It means make clear the gap which has opened up but don’t harp on it or let it depress you. It is not success that is the criterion but have you faithfully proclaimed the Gospel and called to conversion? Perhaps in the fullness of time our attempts to be faithful to the proclamation of the Gospel, even though they seemed to bear no fruit at the time, our calls to conversion even though ignored, will be seen to have been a vital part of the showering of the Father’s grace which will bring everything together under Christ.
Our lapsed children and friends and parishioners may one day say to us it was your, gentle but firm adherence to your faith, your heartfelt but gentle words of encouragement which in the end, the very end, as I came before God, finally brought me to repentance and conversion.