Today’s readings send out a call all Christians to preach the word of God to the world. In the first reading we find Amos delivering God’s message in a foreign land. Amos made it clear this was not his life’s calling. “I’m no prophet,” he said, “I’m just a shepherd.” In the Gospel, Jesus sends his ill-prepared apostles on the mission of bringing His truth to those who will listen. God knew what he was doing in carefully choosing those men even though they weren’t preachers by trade.
Both Amos and the apostles knew they would be confronted by people who found it hard to accept the truth. Amos was thrown out of Bethel and told to go back to where he came from. Likewise, Jesus warned his apostles that many people would not welcome their preaching. They would be ridiculed and turned away for bearing God’s message. When that happened, Our Lord told them to shake the dust off their feet and continue-on with their mission.
In much the same way, we have been called to be prophets, or heralds of the Gospel’s truth. At our baptism we were anointed with Sacred Chrism and received the grace of the Holy Spirit. Through that grace we are strengthened to participate in Christ’s mission as priest, prophet, and King. Being a modern-day prophet of God is a concept we need to understand and embrace.
As prophets chosen in Baptism we are given the mission to hear the truth of the Gospel, understand it, live it and proclaim it to the world. That doesn’t mean we have to stand on a soapbox telling everyone what they need to do to be saved. It simply means we should live our life according to God’s plan and make our lives examples of Christian living for others to see and follow.
Our mission is not easy and comes fraught with trials and tribulations. There are many examples of Christian living that test us just as much as Amos and the apostles were tested. When we are challenged, God asks us to persevere in doing what we know is right, even if it takes us outside of our “comfort zone.”
Fifty years ago, a brief 12-page letter to the world written by Pope Paul VI presented a new test of our resolve in fulfilling our prophetic mission. On July 25, 1968, in his Encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” Pope Paul affirmed God’s truth concerning the sanctity of human life and the purpose and use of our sexuality. Many people found his letter hard to understand and accept. The pressures of living in a “sexually permissive” society caused them to grapple with just how to live according to the Truth. But with prayer and openness to God’s plan it’s not that difficult to do.
This Encyclical extols the wonderous beauty and sanctity of human life. It confirms that our human sexuality is a sacred gift from God that is to be respected, safeguarded and used to fulfill His plan for mankind. That plan reveals God’s love for us in the creation of the human person.
In creating us male and female, God bestowed on us a share in His nobility to assist him in his plan for creating and sustaining human life. In accord with that plan, we are asked to assure that nothing disrupts its fulfillment.
What is often unheeded in Pope Paul’s message is his call to “Responsible Parenthood,” that upholds the values of life and the family. That concept recognizes that we have the knowledge and intellect necessary to assist God in carrying out His plan. Responsible parenthood is achieved either by the generous decision to raise a family, or the deliberate use of our intellect and reason to exercise dominion over our passions in a way that avoids pregnancy, for the time being, without compromising the sanctity of our human sexuality.
When acting in this manner, husband and wife work together to safeguard the essential aspects of the unitive and procreative nature of marital life, while responsibly living according to God’s plan.
Accomplishing that plan, however, is not easily done. The decision to consciously live the truth is made more difficult when man disrupts God’s plan with ways to avoid the generation of new life. Those contraventions don’t require us to control our passions. They don’t require an openness to God’s will. They only offer a no-thought way to avoid making tough decisions about using our sexuality in the manner God intended. Contrary to God’s plan for life, they lead us to succumb to human weakness and disregard the truth found in the moral law Christ and his Church have taught us.
Pope Paul recognized that preaching the truth about life and love would be difficult. Like the apostles during their mission, our commitment to live the truth of our sexuality may make us a “sign of contradiction” to those who are not willing to accept the truth received from Christ.
The Encyclical was wise in many ways. It acknowledges that WE ARE HUMAN and sometimes we fail to live what we know to be true. When that happens, Pope Paul encourages us to turn to the sacraments which open for us paths of grace, forgiveness and healing. Then he calls on us to persevere in our mission as prophets of God’s truth, continuing the vocation begun at our baptism.
Like Amos and the apostles, we are not theologians. We are accountants and nurses; we are engineers and teachers; we are construction workers and civil servants; we are husbands and wives. Yet we all share a common mission: to hear, live and preach the truth.
When your mission becomes too hard to do, re-read the passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians where we are told:
“God has given us the wisdom, to understand fully the mystery, the plan he was pleased to decree in Christ. …A plan to bring all things into one in him, in the heavens and on earth.”
Persevere in living and preaching God’s plan through the example of your life.
Trust in God and He will give you the grace and wisdom you need to carry out your mission as his prophet to the world.