Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time - Fr. Pete Iorio
July 12, 2021 - 11:00 AM
A week ago today Pope Francis had a major surgery in which he was under anesthesia. He is still in the hospital and recovering. Every Sunday, the pope has the practice of addressing the people from the balcony of the Vatican apartment to give the Angelus message. Today is no different except that he gave the message from the balcony of the 10th floor of the hospital. And very beautifully, the gospel today speaks of Jesus sending the apostles out on mission. They are to anoint the people with oil and he gave them power to heal. We have the beautiful sacrament of anointing of the sick which the pope recounts.
On the balcony, Pope Francis was surrounded by sick children. He reminded all of us that we need to be close to people who are sick and to pray for them. We have to have tenderness which is an important attribute that Jesus always exhibits. One gift that we can give to people who are sick is to listen to them in their pain.
If we do an examination of conscience, we may find ourselves not wanting to hear the cry of those who are sick or enter into their pain…especially if we ourselves are not feeling great. This is a very human reaction. The Holy Father gives us a good example of going beyond ourselves and letting God work through him despite his weakness.
Our first reading gives us an indication of how God works. God calls ordinary people like Amos. He worked with sycamore trees, but God called him to be a prophet and speak God’s words to the people. He resisted and did not feel like he had the necessary qualities to be a prophet. He also did not want to experience the negativity that goes with saying things that are not what people want to hear. And so it is with us when God calls us. God speaks to us in the ordinary activities of our lives. Maybe you are hearing God speak to you now. Maybe there was a moment when you were at work and you recognize that you could live out your faith with a coworker. Go ahead and do it.
The Scriptures today also demonstrate to us that living our faith does not only happen in a place of worship. In fact, there seems to be a tension between Amaziah the priest and Amos the prophet. Amaziah was in charge of the temple of Bethel. He grew comfortable and rich. He wanted Amos to go away because he was “ruining business” so to speak. Amos is often called the prophet of social justice. He was a favorite of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Junior. Hearing about the prophet Amos today should remind us that we should not become complacent, and that we need to do the hard work of changing things that are not just especially when it concerns the poor and the marginalized.
The Church connects the first reading with the gospel where Jesus sends out the disciples 2 by 2 and with nothing but bare essentials. They are to rely on the power that he gives them. This gospel passage inspired great saints like Teresa of Kolkata and Francis of Assisi. Like Amos, they heard God called them to do something that was radically different. Franciscans and Missionaries of Charity live lives of poverty, and their habits reflect Jesus‘s prescription, no belt or pockets to carry money. And they wear sandals, the foot covering of the poor. Remember that Mother Teresa caused scandal because she cared for anyone who was dying to give them dignity. They did not have to be Catholic or Christian. Because of her great faith in Christ, she saw the face of the suffering Lord Jesus in everyone.
We priests are the ministers of the sacrament of the anointing of the sick. Pope Francis reminds us that all who are baptized have the priestly quality in their souls and can anoint. Listen to these words of Francis:
But this “oil” is also listening, the closeness, the care, the tenderness of those who take care of the sick person: it is like a caress that makes you feel better, soothes your pain and cheers you up. All of us, everyone, sooner or later, we all need this “anointing” of closeness and tenderness, and we can all give it to someone else, with a visit, a phone call, a hand outstretched to someone who needs help.