“What I desire depends on how I answer the question,”'How am I?'” i.e. “What is my truth?”
When people ask you about how you are today, you seldomly answer the question honestly. You may not even have asked yourself how you are, and if you did, well, you wouldn’t want to share your true condition with everyone.
Desire is often prelude to the gift. I make a distinction here between “wants” and “desires.” Wants are natural, pedestrian, easily experienced. Desires are deep-down things, taking time to feel them and worth the adventure of the seeking.
In my family of six children, we were not allowed, upon arriving at the dinner table, to say that there was something for dinner we did not “want”. When that announcement was made by a young arrival, that person was sent to his/her room until dinner was over. That happened only once per child. To this day I don’t say that bad four-letter word “want”, I even tremble typing it. I usually say that I do not wish, or I would rather have.
In the Spiritual Life, prayer becomes the intersection of God’s desire and our desire, which does take our time to find beneath the layers of selfishness and fear. God meets us where our deep desires percolate. It does take honesty, patience and a rawness of heart.
The prophet Amos is getting his “walking-papers” in today’s First Reading. The reading is taken from the seventh chapter. Read chapter six and the verses which immediately precede our reading if you want to understand why he is in prophetic- hot water. Amos is an independent speaker of God’s word, a former shepherd and tree-trimmer. God has called him to tend the flock of leaders and trim their luxurious and unjust ways. He has been given three visions of destruction in Israel, one of locusts, one of a drought, and one which shows Israel's collapse. He has begged the Lord to relent and so God did, but these indulgent leaders of Israel have continued their irreverence for God’s laws and they have made the temple an unholy place.
Amaziah, a priest of a false sect in Bethel, tells Amos to get out with his false visions and predictions. Amos answers simply that he has only been doing what God had called him to do. He would have rather stayed back on the farm, and there has been no personal profit to his being a prophet. Actually, after these verses which we hear, Amos continues predicting that Amaziah’s own wife will be reduced to being a street-walker and her children banished from the land and that he, Amaziah will die away from the land of Israel. What Amos has been given to say and do, well, he does and says. This takes great faith and self-acceptance.
The Gospel pictures Jesus handing over some travel documents as well. In the previous five chapters, the “twelve” have heard and seen enough of the person and gestures of Jesus to be ready to extend Him. Jesus conducts kind of an airport security check, or better, insecurity check.
At airports travelers are examined as to their carrying anything of a dangerous nature to the plane or fellow passengers. Jesus is examining His followers for anything that would be harmful to their freely assisting Jesus in His healing those who have been injured or sick. Jesus strip-searches them for anything they would be relying on for their supporting personal frailty or fears. No “back-up” tunics or “sacks” of money to be trusted for their gaining positions of power. They are given authority, which is an interior sense rather than an outward credential. They seem to want to go and we hear that they were quite successful.
The heaviest burden we tend to carry in any relationship, and so too with Jesus and His invitations, is our desperate need to be effective, look good, and be successful. Going on a trip or vacation we take all kinds of things, “Just in case”, “Ya never know.” I travel quite a bit and have a conveniently commodious carry-on. As long as there is room in various pockets and corners, why not take an extra this and a few more these. We fear getting caught short, are fearful of not being adequate to the task. So, because I do it, it must be natural, healthy and provident.
Amos, Jesus and His apostles seemed to have a freedom from externals, because of what they had inside them to share. Their authority was what they had received rather than what was going to assist their need to be productive. They had to say and do what was in them and the more direct and difficult the message, it seems the more they had to say it - unassisted by Power-Point and hand-outs. They had and they were the message.
Intervention, confrontation, direct honesty are all difficult human interruptions and most often experiences of casting out demons and bad spirits. When we are freed from our being overly concerned with what this means to us, and freed to be concerned about how this confrontation will bring life to the other, then we are in and on the mission of the “Twelve”. We are asked to wear the sandals of the pilgrim, freed from pretense and anything which would cover over our own human poverty, and hold the walking stick guiding our unclear paths. This stick is not for pointing out, or for instructing others, but is meant to be a sign of our own reliance on the Sending God.
Jesus was more interested in the healing, recovery and liveliness of the others. Amos was more interested in how God was calling Israel back to life. We, as with the Apostles, are invited by our relationship with Jesus, to go to confront what is not life and to be more involved with how the other or others will look, rather than how we will.
“Did somebody say that following Jesus was easy?!!!"
“the sparrow finds a home and the swallow a nest for her young by your altars, o Lord of host, my king and my god. Blessed are they who dwell in your house, for ever singing your praise." - Ps. 84, 4-5