Homily for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

On becoming a summertime prophet

(Scriptures for this Sunday's liturgy)

Have you ever had to deliver a message to someone
whom you knew wasn’t going to be happy
with the news you were bringing?

That’s the prophet’s dilemma.

Prophets, like Amos, are charged with speaking a word from God
to people whose comfortability and contentment
are likely to be challenged by what the prophet has to say.

In today’s scripture, Amaziah, the priest of the religious establishment,
wants to run Amos out of town
because he himself stands judged by Amos’ prophetic word.
No wonder Amos would have preferred to go back
to herding sheep and harvesting figs from sycamore trees!

Amos is sometimes called the prophet of social justice
because the word he spoke to God’s people
revealed how the powerful use the poor
and trample on the needy for their own gain.

Just this past week another prophet of social justice, Pope Benedict,
wrote a letter to us, the Church and to the world
on the economy, ethics and human development.
A signed copy of the letter, titled Charity in Truth,
is one of the gifts the pope gave President Obama
when they met a few days ago in Rome.

Like Amos in his preaching, the pope challenges a world economy
which abuses or ignores or has even forgotten those in greatest need.
He wrote:

While the poor of the world continue knocking on the doors of the rich,
the world of affluence runs the risk of no longer hearing those knocks,

on account of a conscience
that can no longer distinguish what is human.

(Charity in Truth, no. 75)

The prophetic word here challenges not only an unjust economy
but a global culture in which life is cheapened, in the womb and in war,
to the point where we begin to fail to recognize what is truly human.

A world which has forgotten its source, its creator - its God -
is a world that has at least begun to forget
what it means to be truly human.

Now, on the one hand, we who live in a nation of affluence
are very much the subject of Benedict’s prophetic word.
But on the other hand, we are called to be prophets ourselves,
like the 12 in the gospel, called to bring God’s word and presence
into the lives of those around us.
Each of us is called and sent
to bring a word of God’s message to others.

And no, it’s not enough to leave that work for the pope or others.
Nor is it enough for me just to tell you to go out and prophesy!
In the scriptures, the Lord always gives the prophet a word to deliver.
So, I wonder:
what word might the Lord give us to bring to his people this summer?

Some time between now and Labor Day,
probably before the week is over,
we’ll find ourselves in conversations about
the economy, the war, Michael Jackson’s death, illegal immigrants
and any of any number of issues in each day’s news.

Suppose in talking with folks about these things
we were to raise a question like:
“Where do you think God is in all of this?”
or “What do you suppose God thinks about that?”

If we ask such questions, we don’t need to have all the answers.
Just to raise the question brings God’s name to bear on the discussion,
and that's the task at hand.

And if even thinking about saying these things makes us nervous,
then we see just how prophetic a work it is
simply to raise God’s name
with regard to the circumstances and events of our daily lives
and the life of the world around us.

Should we be rebuffed for asking these questions,
well - Jesus knew we would.
Allow me to paraphrase his words in the gospel:

"Whenever you enter a conversation, mention my name.
If others don’t welcome your doing so - chill!
Say what you can, say what you believe, and then move on.
And know that in the asking the question
you have been a prophet
because you have spoken my name to my people.”

The questions again?
“Where do you think God is in all of this?”
or “What do you suppose God thinks about that?”

If you’re like Amos and the other prophets
and you worry that you don’t know enough,
or have enough faith or the right words,
then come to the Lord’s table and be nourished and strengthened
for the work the Lord sends you to do this summer.

Here we share at the table of the Prophet of all prophets:
the very Word of God made flesh
who dwells among us
and shares with his life with us in the Eucharist.

Be nourished at the table of wisdom
to find the strength to do a prophet’s work this summer.



  1. Why is it so hard for us Catholics in America to evangelize and be prophetic? Is it our immigrant heritage? Are we just trying to "fit in" and be part of the mainstream culture? No answers from me...just a lot of questions...and some soul searching.

  2. God's marvelous, mysterious movement in our lives makes me smile today. Although I read much of what you write, CP, I rarely comment. Today I even made up a name for commenting. I didn't have time to comment on your homily on Sunday and didn't get back to it until today. I'm happy for the delay because my homily comment now comes after reading your MMO. I too have felt the sting of realizing my words have hurt instead of healed. It doesn't take away the sting of that experience, whatever it was that happened, but I've wanted to say since Sunday that your homily was one of the finest I've ever read. You've had many gems, CP, but this was certainly in the top 10 for it's precision, simplicity, and it's piercing of the dead center of the target. I believe God's Word and your words were aligned beautifully and you spoke as a prophet, giving your readers and hearers a clear and direct instruction that, if heeded, will both deepen a relationship with God and make God's presence more visible in our world. Well done, CP.

  3. CP Fan: thank you for your generously kind comment - and for finding yourself a screen name for commenting!


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