Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sunday 15B: Proclaiming the Kingdom of God - A Visit to the Calypso Water Park in Limoges

Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year "B") - July 15, 2012

[Amos 7.12-15; [Psalm 85]; Ephesians 1.3-14; Mark 6.7-13]

Biblical scholars are divided over the authenticity of -- who wrote? -- the epistle to the Ephesians. Some maintain its Pauline authorship. Others consider it the work of a disciple of Paul. All agree there is a difference of tone and style from the other Pauline epistles.

If by Paul, Ephesians must date from his Roman imprisonment (the early 60's). If composed by a disciple of Paul's (possibly a summary of his theology to accompany a collection of his writings), the epistle was likely written in Asia Minor towards the end of the first century.

The blessing with which Ephesians opens serves as an overture to the entire writing. In it the mystery of God's saving plan is depicted in terms of the past (before time or creation existed), the Christian present (including what has been revealed in and by Christ) and the future (a pledge to Christians of inheriting God's redemption). "Before the foundation of the world God chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless before Him in love".

This mystery of God's saving design also bears a Trinitarian stamp. The Father chose the redeemed in Christ and marked them "with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit". Creation and redemption come together in Christ. In him disciples become God's adopted children.

The mystery Paul made known is that people have been chosen in Christ to be one. Moreover, all things find their headship (principle of unity) in Christ. This includes, Paul says, angelic orders as well as the human ("things in heaven and things on earth").

The most visible manifestation of God's will lies in the union between Jews ("we have also obtained an inheritance") and Gentiles ("you also ... heard the word of truth, the gospel of salvation"), which finds expression in the inclusive adjectival phrase "our [common] inheritance".

Still, the carrying out of God's design for the world's salvation happens in ordinary ways. In the ministry of a prophet like Amos who cried out for social justice. In the preaching and healing ministry carried out by the apostles sent on mission by Jesus. Or in the manifold ways in which today's Church carries on the service of Christian faith. That is, by the church's spiritual ministries and in the church's proclamation of that justice for God's little ones which authentic faith demands.

Amos was the prophet of social justice par excellence. In his threats of disaster against unrepentant Israel he resembled John the Baptist, the herald of Jesus. A herdsman from Tekoa in the Judean hills (Amos 1.1), he moved to the Northern Kingdom in the time of King Jeroboam II (786-746 B.C.) to prophesy at Samaria (chapters 3-6) and then at Bethel, the royal sanctuary.

The poetry of Amos is filled with imagery and language drawn from his shepherd background. This he used to denounce the hollow prosperity of the Israelite Kingdom. He was the first to use the phrase the "Day of the Lord" to signify that divine wrath was about to be visited, not against Israel's enemies, but against Israel herself for departing from moral uprightness. The God of creation and history requites every kind of unrighteousness.

Though Mark regularly depicted the disciples in harsh tones, he knew the other side of the portrait: that they left family and careers, were open to Jesus' teaching, and did take part in His historical ministry.

The Twelve took seriously Jesus' strictures about travelling lightly, not looking for preferential treatment by going from house to house, and moving on when not received. Later, we learn that the Twelve were successful as apostles, accomplishing what they had been sent out by Jesus to do and teach (cf. Mark 6.30).

The sense of urgency in Jesus' instructions suggests that Mark understood the proclamation of repentance as similar to that announced by Jesus ("The Kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the Good News" [Mark 1.14-15]).

By paralleling Jesus and the disciples, Mark probably intended his readers to conclude that they, in turn, were to model themselves on the disciples. The Church today must do what Jesus and the disciples did in theirs, proclaim the repentance called for by the Kingdom, conduct a healing ministry that overcomes injustice and drive out the crippling powers of sin.

* * * * * *

Last Saturday, I joined my younger brother John and his family (Sonia, Paul and Clara) for an outing at the Calypso WaterPark at Limoges, ON. They drove from Montreal bringing with them sandwiches and lemonade and sunscreen. There are lots of picnic tables all over the grounds, many in tree-shaded areas.

The amusement park is a delight: very spacious and, while one needs to wait at the more popular slides, there are plenty of alternatives that have relatively short wait times.  The children loved it (as is evident from the smiles).

I was amazed at the youth and vitality of those attending and how widespread tattoos have become!  The next day, having taken some spins down a few slides, I was discovering muscles that had not been tested in some time!

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