Amos 7:12–15; Eph. 1:3–14; Mark 6:7–13
Did you know that you were anointed priest, prophet, and king? Your baptism and confirmation join you to Christ—who is priest, prophet, and king—which makes you a partaker in those three offices: priesthood, kingship, and prophecy. Now, while you don’t see this phrase “priest, prophet, and king” in scripture, you do see these offices exercised by Jesus. And the Catechism tells us that we share in these offices with Him (CCC 897-913). We’re going to talk a bit today about our role as prophet.
You share Christ’s office as prophet. By prophet, I don’t necessarily mean someone who predicts future events but someone who is configured—that is enabled—to see and speak the Truth. Through your baptism and confirmation and with proper formation in the faith, you are given the ability to see, hear, and speak the truth about the faith and you have the right, with proper formation, to give your opinion about matters of faith so long as you do so with consideration for the common good and dignity of persons—that is, that you consider what is true, what is kind, and what is necessary. That’s from paragraph 907 of the Catechism.
So you are a prophet! That’s the good news. The bad news is that everyone seems to hate prophets. No, seriously. Look throughout scripture, and you won’t find a true prophet of God that is welcomed by the people to whom he is sent. The Book of Amos is a great example, especially for those who are prophets and don’t know it. Just look at our first reading. Amaziah, the chief priest at Bethel tells Amos to go somewhere else to prophesy, suggesting that Amos is trying to profit from being a prophet, no pun intended.
But Amos says, hey, this isn’t my job! “I’m a shepherd and tender of sycamores.” A sycamore in the near and middle east is not like the ones we have in the US. They actually produce fruit. Amos tended sheep and farmed produce from sycamores. So Amos was someone who produced food for people, and that’s an important calling. But God called him to something else. He was called from his profession to deliver a message. That is the role of a prophet—to deliver a message and to proclaim the truth. A hired prophet, like one Amaziah considered Amos, just delivers the message of the one who pays him or her. But Amos makes it clear that he is not a professional. He is a lay person called to bring the truth to light.
In that sense, Amos is no less like you or me, lay or clergy. We are all called by our common baptism to be prophets. And that doesn’t mean anything more profound than being willing to speak the truth. In Christ we are chosen, in accord with God’s will, for a purpose. And we are universally called to holiness. Holiness is not just something for those extraordinary few, for saints, for clergy and religious. We are all supposed to strive for holiness, which is befitting for our enablement as priest, prophet, and king. And if we are to pursue holiness, we must pursue the truth, however unpopular it might be. I don’t think I need to tell you how much the world hates the truth right now. What we get mostly is truthiness: someone’s agenda, whether it’s on the left or the right. We cannot get the truth from the world! We can get facts from the world. We can get opinions from the world. But truth is not something worldly. Truth only comes from God.
As usual, the gospel reading presents the model, the way forward for the faithful. Jesus has already called the Twelve, and I can imagine they’re thinking it will be so great! They’ll be the emissaries of the Anointed One! The Prophet predicted by Moses! James and John even hoped that they would sit at His right and left sides. But that is not what it means to be the prophet of the Lord. That is not what it means to be a follower of Christ. Jesus Himself tells us that following Him leads to the cross, to trial, and to suffering. Which means that if we choose this way, it will not be a walk in the park.
So why is it that we so frequently hear something different from Christians? Why do we hear something other than the cross? Some Christian sects teach that being poor or sick or otherwise in adversity is a sign that you lack faith. You’ve probably heard of what is called the prosperity gospel—name it and claim it. This message is a favorite of many well-known televangelists. But there’s a problem with this way of thinking. It’s not what the gospel promises us. The gospel promises us rejection, discomfort, and sometimes outright persecution.
But, of course, it’s more than that. Jesus says in Matthew 11:30: “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” How is it that the burden will be light amidst these trials? How is a yoke easy? [How many of you know what a yoke is? A yoke is a collar that is used to hitch an ox or horse to a plow. You can also have a yoke for a team of oxen or horses—that is, two oxes or two horses.] But Jesus says that his yoke is easy. That’s because Jesus’ yoke is for two, and he’s the other part of our team. Jesus doesn’t give his yoke to us to bear. Jesus shares his own yoke with us.
And recall, the Apostles have already been with Him through many of His encounters with the sick, the possessed, the dying, or those who have already died. They have heard his Sermon on the Mount. They understand that the adversity they encounter now pales in comparison to the glory of what will be in the kingdom to come. They are not focused on the here and now but what will be. They are not clinging to the moment but focused on the prize.
And they know that Jesus is with them. That God is with them. That’s what Immanuel, one of the titles of Jesus, means: God with us. His name Jesus, or Yeshua, means God’s salvation. His very name is salvation. His name saves.
And He is here to live with us, to slog through the joy and pain in this life with us, to experience life with us. So the burden is light because He walks with us always. He is yoked to us. He pulls the plow along with us, and no doubt, He bears most of that burden.
Amos in our first reading and the Apostles in our gospel reading know that they have nothing without God. God sends Amos, a shepherd and dresser of Sycamores to Israel, with no credentials as a prophet. The Apostles—a motley assortment of fishermen, tax collectors, and political zealots—are sent to preach the good news, to cast out demons, and to cure the sick. They know that none of this comes from their own power, and they know that they are utterly dependent on God. But they also know God’s promise. They may have to undergo adversity and persecution, but they will also encounter the joy of letting God work through them.
And we can experience that same joy by allowing Jesus Christ to shine through us. As Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians, the joy we experience is merely the first installment of our inheritance. It is the tip of the iceberg of what God intends for us.
So let’s start here with the Eucharist that we celebrate here today—our offering of thanksgiving. Filled with its grace, let’s take Jesus out into our world, a world that so badly needs His gift of salvation. Jesus will be with us, sharing our burden as we share our joy.