July 11, 2021 – 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Being rejected is a terrible experience. When someone you love, a friend or family member rejects you for being who you are and for what you have done, is painful. This experience creates emptiness in us and feelings of not being loved and not being accepted. This makes us feel worthless and useless, thus, traumatic. This can also be experienced in workplaces when a co-worker and/or your employer gets angry at you and shows sour attitude towards you. Or when your work has been rejected or a proposal has not been approved because of their biases with you.

In our community, there are many forms of rejection also that sometimes we are not aware of. We could just reject those whom we think are useless. We could easily not pay attention to those who do not belong in our circle of friends. We could just dismiss a person just because of appearance, education, family background or culture.

Moreover, there is another form of rejection also that can be traced in the Bible. This is the rejection experienced by people who spoke in behalf of God, who preached and taught what God wanted for the community. Prophets are usually rejected by people because their words and presence disturb the peace and comfort of the rich and the powerful.

This is what our first reading from the Book of Amos told us. Amos was rejected by Amaziah, the priest of Bethel because Amos was prophesying the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Amos prophesied this by also pointing out the reasons behind. The Northern Kingdom who enjoyed prosperity and abundance also turned out to be oppressive to the poor and the weak in their society. Thus, Amos spoke of the injustice committed by the rich and the powerful against the poor.

Consequently, Amos irked the Amaziah who enjoyed influence and wealth from this kind of life. That is why, Amaziah wanted Amos to go back to Judah, the Southern Kingdom and do his prophesying there while earning income. For Amaziah, being a priest of the temple and being a prophet was just about earning something and enjoying privileges.

However, being a true priest or a prophet is not about earning something or enjoying the comfort of wealth and influence. A prophet is God’s voice that penetrates the heart of every man and woman, that penetrates and disturbs the heart of the community that has become indifferent and complacent, unjust and oppressive.

That is why, Amos who was a shepherd was called by the Lord to speak on God’s behalf and deliver God’s message. He was commanded to “Go, prophesy to my people, Israel.” Though he did not come from a family of priests or from a lineage of prophets, yet, God chose him. Being God’s prophet after all is not about what we have attained or achieved and not about an excellent family background.

This is what the Gospel of Mark also revealed to us. Jesus sent out the twelve Apostles, two by two, whom he chose. These men where not from any family background that one would expect. Yet, Jesus saw something beyond the ordinary life of these men. This was how God worked wonders in them. And thus, Jesus gave them authority to free people burdened and oppressed by the unclean or evil spirit and to cure the sick. This means that they have been given the gift to heal and free people.

However, they have “to take nothing” for the journey. This calls every Apostle to fully trust in God’s providence expressed through the generosity of the people around them. To take nothing for the journey will allow them to be free from any unnecessary burden whether physical, material, psychological or spiritual.

Yet, as they proclaim peace and grant blessing to many homes, it is expected that not all will accept. Rejection is part of life of a preacher and of a prophet who proclaims what God wants to be proclaimed. People won’t easily accept God’s invitation and God’s presence.

And the reason? God demands change or transformation of our heart and of our whole life.

Change can be thought by many of us as a mere “disturbance” to what we have already become comfortable and familiar. But then, the danger of complacency and indifference could grip our hearts to the point that we become unmoved in from of the suffering of those around us.

This reminds us of the life of Fr. Rudy Romano, CSsR, a Redemptorist Missionary who spoke about the crimes of injustices committed against the poor in Cebu. His voice and presence became a “disturbance” to the powerful, the rich and the privileged. Like Amos and many prophets in the Holy Scripture, he too was rejected and martyred. He was even told by his own father to only focus on his sacramental duties as a priest. But, Fr. Rudy responded to his Dad’s letter, that he won’t be a worthy priest anymore if he would follow his father’s advice.

Fr. Rudy chose to stand with the oppressed and committed himself to speak what God wants him to speak and to live the life of a prophet as God called him to be.

In consequence, Fr. Rudy was abducted on this day, July 11, in 1985 in Cebu City. For the past 36 years, his body was never been found. Such is the fate of a prophet yet relentless in his words and eternal is his spirit.

The confidence and the faith that Fr. Rudy showed must have been what St. Paul spoke about in his letter to the Ephesians. Paul proclaimed that God the Father blessed us with every spiritual blessing and this was made possible because of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

These spiritual blessings must have grown in the heart of Fr. Rudy. These spiritual blessings which St. Paul proclaimed are the grace of being chosen by God, the grace to be holy and without blemish, the grace of being an adopted child of God, the gift of redemption and freedom, the gift of forgiveness of sins and the grace to share in the mystery of God.

For us today, each of us, regardless of our background or profession or achievements and failures in life is called to be God’s prophet in the bigger picture of our society and even within our small sphere of influence like our homes, schools, workplaces or organizations.

As a prophet shall arose in our midst, hopefully, we too shall welcome now and learn to discern the words and the presence of the prophet among us whoever he or she may be. May the prophet’s voice and life disturb our complacency and indifference.

Let our conscience then, be guided also by our faith in God, be inspired by love and be moved by our hope to bring change and transformation into our life and in our community that will bring healing and freedom. Hinaut pa.

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