A month following my ordination, I was in Chicago and had completed a day of meetings. Having boarded at Union Station, the train began to roll into its six-hour journey back to Michigan. After a couple of hours on the rails, however, I noticed that a man was pacing back-and-forth in the aisle. With one eye on the paper I was reading and one eye on him, the man stopped, turned toward me, and began to speak. And what he said caught me by surprise: “May I ask you a question? Are you a minister?” After responding “yes,” I was nevertheless stunned. Having been dressed in khakis and sweater, it wasn’t a situation where I was wearing my vestments or even praying the scriptures. But somehow, he knew.
After having invited him to sit down, the man began to talk. He confided that he was a cancer survivor and had lost hope for a time but persevered because he believed that God would lead him to a doctor with a treatment that would help save his life—or at least prolong it for a time. Continuing, he noted that through prayer, he was led to another cancer survivor who urged him to see a Chicago oncologist who specialized in what he described as “lost causes.”
Then two years past his personal “D-day,” the day on which his original physician had provided him with a terminal diagnosis, he confided that he was responding positively to treatments and had been giving constant thanks to the Divine Physician, Jesus Christ, whom he believed had personally intervened to bring about his healing. At the end of our hour-long conversation, he departed for his seat and I remember thanking the Lord for this gift of healing and praying that He would continue to bless this man.
On this 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, I begin with this story because, in a special way, we can find three realities also present in today’s readings. (Amos 7:12-15; Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6:7-13)
First, That We are Blessed
In St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, it is though the Apostle shouts out this reality: that the Father has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing; that we have been redeemed by His blood; that we have forgiveness from our transgressions; and that we have been Chosen so that we might exist for the praise of His glory.
But, I wonder. How many of us feel that we are blessed? I can’t describe the joy I experience meeting those who inform me that they are blessed. For them, life is viewed as a constant blessing—in good times and bad. Sadly, however, there are also those who wake up each day, look around, and can’t see the blessings that our Dear Lord has placed at our feet? (e.g., health, spouse, friends, income, etc.)
In my own life, I can remember a priest praying with my wife and I before she delivered our full-term, stillborn son. In his priesthood, he told us that it is a great mystery that while some are given 9 months in the womb, others are given 90 years outside it and still cannot recognize the blessings that have been given them.
Second, That We are Called
Imagine how Amos must have felt when Amaziah the priest told him that he was being sent to the land of Judah! His words reveal that he was in utter shock: “I was no prophet…I was a shepherd…But the Lord took me from following the flock and has sent me to prophesy to his people, Israel.”
Or imagine the call of the disciples. If we were given the opportunity to be that proverbial “fly on the wall,” we would have heard Our Lord call those first disciples: “Come, follow me.” And in an instant, we would have observed how they detached from every element of their lives to follow Jesus.
Third, That We have been Sent
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus summoned the 12 and began to send them out—two by two. By doing so, it was though Jesus had provided them with a road map that they should follow: take no personal belongings; preach repentance; and place their entire trust in God.
In the 17th century, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, an Algonquin-Mohawk laywoman who converted to Catholicism at the age of 19, practiced a similar lifestyle. It is said that she knew only two paths: one that led to the chapel and another that led to work. And it is these two paths that this young saint incorporated the three realities of being: blessed, called, and sent. The blessings that God bestowed upon her led her to praise and worship that, in turn, fostered a strong life of prayer. Ultimately, this led her into deeper communion with God where He revealed her life’s work.
Each day, may we remind ourselves that we have been blessed and created by Almighty God for a specific purpose. Further, may we also remember that at this juncture of human history, it is you and me who have been called and sent to make a difference. So, let’s not be shy. Rather, let us step out and bring about God’s Kingdom—right here, right now.