15th Sunday in Ordinary Time. July 12th 2015.
Am 7:12-15; Eph 1:3-14; Mk 6:7-13
Possessed by divine blessing
“He gave them authority over the unclean spirits”
I was a fresh seminarian then, sitting in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston and attending my first priestly ordination. The ordaining prelate, Bernard Cardinal Law, spoke words to the newly ordained priests that have been etched in my heart all these years. He said to them, “You have received a blessing from God today for the entire Church. But remember it would be a tragedy if you left this world with your gift-wrap intact.” The message was clear: the newly ordained priests had received an amazing blessing from God in priestly ordination, a gift that was more than something to be possessed but a reality that would change their lives now and have eternal consequences.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that “Blessing is a divine and life-giving action, the source of which is the Father; His blessing is both word and gift.” Divine blessings cannot be something that we merely possess, have or enjoy; but they are gifts that indeed possess us, changing us and our relationship with God such that the proper response on our part to these divine blessings is continuous “adoration and surrender to our Creator in thanksgiving.” (CCC#1078) Basically, we cannot truly receive divine blessings and still live our lives as usual, something must change in us and our relationship with God.
St. Paul reminds the Ephesians that God “has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens.” These spiritual blessings are life transforming realities for us. Our “adoption to God through Christ” has indeed made us children of God and not merely His creatures. The “redemption that we have in His blood” means that we are no longer under the dominion of Satan and sin but have now been “transferred into the kingdom of His beloved Son.” (Col 1:13) The “forgiveness of transgressions” that we have in Him means that no matter the gravity or the number of sins of the past, we can confidently approach the “throne of grace so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”(Heb 4:16) The “riches of grace that He (God) lavished upon us” in His Son is a guarantee that we have access to all the graces that we need. Lastly, these gifts will also bear on our eternal destiny. The Holy Spirit, “the first installment of our inheritance towards redemption as God’s possession,” assures us that we belong to God now and until the end of time.
The divine blessings possess and transform us to the point that we “exist for the praise of His own glory.” Though we are “destined for adoption to Himself through Christ,” and “chosen in Christ to be holy and without blemish before Him,” our divine adoption and our vocation to holiness are not for our own vainglory. All these divine blessings are offered us to change us and to deepen our relationship to God till we begin to do all and be all things not for any personal gain but for “the praise of the glory of His grace that He granted us in the beloved.”
In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus sends out the Twelve on mission after He gave them “authority over unclean spirits.” This participation in Jesus’ mission and this authority is not something merely possessed by the Twelve but a reality that will change them and their relationship with Him. They will be so trusting in Him that they “will take nothing for the journey.” They will no longer seek for better living or working conditions but stay in any home that first welcomed them. They will not be afraid of being unwelcomed or become discouraged because their message is ignored by others. They will neither seek acceptance from others nor fear rejection because of the transforming power of divine blessing that they have received. Lastly, they will live not for themselves but for the “praise of the glory of God’s grace,” as they “preach repentance everywhere,” “drive out many demons,” and cure many sick people.
Life provides us with many opportunities to reflect on our attitude to God’s blessings. These moments compel us to ask if we are merely possessing these blessings or allowing them to transform us deeply so that we live no longer for ourselves but for the greater glory of God. The Prophet Amos faces such a moment in today’s First Reading as Amaziah, the priest of the Bethel temple, banishes him from the northern kingdom because he thinks that Amos is prophesying for personal gain. At such a moment of rejection and apparent failure in his ministry, Amos recounts that his presence in the area as a prophet is because of his being blessed by God with a prophetic vocation, “I was no prophet… I was a shepherd and a dresser or sycamores. The Lord took me from following the flock, and said to me, Go, prophecy to my people Israel.” Being possessed and transformed by the blessing of his vocation, he does not act for his own gain or approval, he is not afraid of rejection and he is not discouraged by apparent failure. The gift of his vocation has both possessed and transformed him.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, having received God’s numerous blessings, how have these affected our relationship with Him? Has His blessings of faith, hope, love, mercy, life, vocation, etc impacted us and our relationship with Him in any way? How have these blessings made us live more for Him than for ourselves? In our striving for personal holiness, have we become discouraged by our repeated failures and inability to overcome obstacles? In our determination to give faithful witness, have we given up by lack of positive results? Have we been left disillusioned by this world’s rejection of the Good News in Jesus Christ? Has the fervor of our prayer life diminished because of lack of visible results? We cannot allow our failures or lack of results diminish our determination to live for God alone. These are all examples of moments that call us to once again remind ourselves that the blessings that we have received cannot leave us the same but are to make us live for the praise of God’s own glory.
Let us recall in this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that “In the Church’s liturgy the divine blessing is fully revealed and communicated.”(CCC#1082) In every Eucharist, we receive no other than Jesus Christ, in whom God has blessed us with every single blessing in the heavens. We have every blessing that we need for the life of personal holiness and for continuously seeking the greater glory of God till we draw our last breath. We have been blessed by God, we are being blessed by God now and we will always be blessed by God. We will not receive these blessing in vain if we allow them to possess and transform us completely to the point where we cease to live for ourselves but for God’s greater glory alone.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!