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Stripped of everything to be free and credible

In the first reading we come across two significant and opposite characters: Amaziah, the priest well integrated into the religious structure, full of merits and privileges and Amos, the rugged herdsman who suddenly began to be the prophet.

The first is a successful man, acclaimed and respected for being a friend of the powers that be and has achieved a prestigious position. He is not to be envied. He has it all, but he is not free. At any time he can be restricted by the sovereign who gives the bread, but he can also deny him. He is forced to show respect and unconditional veneration, to be always ready to flatter, to go along with the political games of his protector and turn a blind eye to his misdeeds.

Amos is poor, but independent. He can say what he thinks, has nothing to lose, nothing to defend and owes nothing to anyone.

Poor to be free could be the motto that summarises the conditions laid down by Jesus in today’s gospel to those who are called to proclaim his word. They should look like Amos, not Amaziah.

Today’s gospel opens with the sending out of the twelve and Jesus advises them on the equipment that the messengers of the gospel can bring with them. It must be very light: only one tunic, a pair of sandals, a stick and nothing else. The rest is a baggage that weighs down. The material resources must be reduced to the essentials.

What they should not carry with them is also indicated: no food, no bag, no money … (vv. 8-9). He wants to disprove the belief that the success of the mission depends on the amount of material means available to them.

The complete detachment required by the Master does not only imply the renunciation of material goods. It also includes the rejection of preconceived ideas, traditions, habits, devotional practices,  and religious customs, tied to a specific historical and cultural past and innocently confused and equated to the gospel. 

Jesus never despised material goods, but has never presented poverty as an ideal life. However, he warned his disciples against the danger of being influenced by wealth. They are not free to speak the truth and to express what they think if they have to please someone, who, like Amaziah is paid, and must be grateful.

Over the centuries the Church has paid a heavy price to the agreements and alliances with the powerful of this world, the compromises with those who have offered privileges, favours and guarantees. She paid for them with the loss of freedom and autonomy.

λ Father Fernando Armellini
Claretian Publications