Scripture Reflections – Sunday, July 15th 2012

Amos 7: 12 -15; Ephesians 1: 3 -14; Mt 6: 7 – 13

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

In this Sunday’s first reading, the powers that be are really upset with Amos’ prophesy.  This is not surprising as Amos often takes them to task on behalf of God.   Today Amos’ is challenged to produce his qualifications for being a prophet.

His answer – I don’t have any.  “I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores (perhaps we would refer to him today as a gardener or landscaper?)”

Amos’ words offer us an opportunity to reflect upon an important truth.  It’s not only the message of the prophet that can be difficult for us to listen to.   It’s also hard to accept the prophet himself or herself.   Often God chooses those who the world has rejected or overlooked or scorned to reveal some profound truths.

Start with Moses, an outlaw and a sheepherder when God came to call.   Or young Gideon in the book of Judges who was called by God to lead the people when he was still in his teens.  Then there’s David, the runt of the litter of Jesse’s sons, and Hannah who, when it seemed her child bearing years were past, gave birth to the prophet Samuel.  And don’t forget about those itinerate wanders from Nazareth, the carpenter’s son named Jesus who was executed by the state and who was conceived under rather unorthodox circumstances.

Of course, the parade of holy outcasts doesn’t stop at the close of the New Testament.  How many women and men who we now celebrate as saints were spurned and condemned by the people who knew them? (Too long a list for a blog entry, but you could start with Clare and Francis of Assisi.)

Here in the suburbs of New York City, as in many parts of the country, there are thousands of day laborers from Mexico and  Central America performing the most arduous manual labor and the most degrading jobs that the rest of us simply would not consider doing under any circumstance.   We graciously accept their sweat and suffering for the sake of our comfort and economy.  When they have gone home for the day – lacking health care,  barely making a minimum wage and sometimes screwed even out of that, homesick and lonely – we mostly forget about their very existence until we need them again the next day.  If we think about them at all, it probably will be to complain about what an outrage it is that “those people” are destroying our way of life.

Have a look in your yard or your neighbor’s yard, or on the sides of the roads in your communtiy or in the kitchens of the restaurants in your town.

Might there be a prophetic message they carry that God demands that we hear?

Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)

(I will be teaching a Faith Foundations course at St. Frances de Chantal parish in Wantagh, NY on the Tuesday and Thursday evenings of this week and next week.   Contact the Office of Faith Formation in the Diocese of Rockville Centre ( for more details.)

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