Jesus teaches us another way: Go out. Go out and share your testimony, go out and interact with your brothers, go out and share, go out and ask. Become the Word in body as well as spirit. — Pope Francis
Last Sunday’s first reading was a brief excerpt from the prophet Amos. In it Amos responds to the Israelite priest Amaziah’s command that he, Amos, leave Israel and take his unpleasant prophetic message with him. Amos protests that he is no “professional” prophet, not part of the kingdom of Israel’s prophet guilds that would hang around the royal court and prophesy comforting words to the monarchy. Rather, he was called from the kingdom of Judah and commanded by God to abandon his profession as a shepherd and arborist to proclaim His word of judgment on the corrupt kingdom of Israel. God, Amos said, spoke to to him with that simple mission verb in the imperative: “Go.” In the Scripture this verb often seems to be the equivalent of another unsettling verb — Jump.
Every divinely given vocation implies a mission, but it also contains the gifts needed to do carry out that mission. And every gift given to me by God has inscribed within it the name of every person God intended that gift to serve. So even as I rejoice in the gifts I possess, I recall the words of Jesus: “To whom much is given much will be expected” (Luke 12:48). Though vocations can at first feel very me-focused — a sign of God’s particular love for me by name — missions are other-focused. My spiritual director of long ago gave me a phrase that has forever burned itself into my heart: “Whenever people laud your gifts, say: How much God must love them to give me these gifts! Gifts are only an indirect compliment from God to you; but are a direct compliment to others.”
An Orthodox Jewish Rabbi I worked with in Hartford back in the 1980’s once said to me, when I asked him what it meant to him that he was part of God’s chosen people:
Some chosen-ness! Disasters, enslavements, exiles, genocides, forever wandering the earth like our father Abraham. This is the terrible and blessed burden of being chosen, of making known His holiness among the nations. Baruch Hashem.
Baruch Hashem means, “Blessed is the Name (of G-d).”
Every celebration of Holy Mass, which binds our lives to the terrible Crucifixion and blessed Resurrection of Christ, is inscribed with the language of vocation and mission. We are called by God to worship and receive the Gift that empowers us for our mission: Venite, “Come!” And we are sent by God on mission: Ite, missa est, “Go, be sent!” I recall one Sunday the priest-celebrant of the Mass, just before the dismissal, said: “You’ve come today to be fed, and you’ve feasted on God himself. Now go and feed the world with the food you’ve been given and watch Jesus multiply what you give away. Freely you’ve received, now freely give. Then come back next Sunday and share with all of us and God the fruits of your harvest. The Lord be with you…”