As a priest, I often find myself in a position which is strangely similar to what we hear about in the first reading from the prophet Amos (7:12-15), even though this is 2000 years later. In modern English it might sound something like this: ‘Look Amos/Murchadh go and talk about God somewhere else. We don’t want to hear about it here, we are important people and we are busy with our own Church. And I might say, ‘You listen to me (Amaziah)! I didn’t choose to do this. It wasn’t my idea, but God ordered me to go and speak to you, and now you can take it or leave it.’
In one way we priests—and indeed anyone who teaches about the ways of God—are still in the same position today. We are supposed to pass on the same message regardless of whether people listen to us or not. This is not an easy thing to do, as people often don’t want to hear what we have to say. There is a great temptation for us, for me, to try to say what people would like to hear, so that people will think well of me, because like anyone else, I want to be accepted by other people too. But that is not what we are called to do by the Lord.
We are called by the Lord to do a specific job, and that is to tell people about him and his message. To tell people that Jesus is the way to the Father, that without him we can not have our sins forgiven, that he is the way for us to find happiness and that God has made himself known to us in the person of Jesus Christ.
The message that the Lord calls us to preach is not an easy one and often meets with a lot of opposition, but that is beside the point. It is not my business if people decide to follow Jesus Christ or not, that is up to them. But it is my job to tell people about the Lord, as He asks us to.
Pray for us priests that we will have the courage that we need to do what the Lord calls us to do. Help us to be strong in our faith. It is not our place to preach our opinions, but to preach the Word of God. Our opinions will not help you or nourish you, but the Word of God will. What we say should challenge you, because the voice of the Lord, which is always calling us to begin again, is not an easy one to follow or listen to. Just about all of the prophets were killed because they challenged the people about how they were living when they strayed away from the ways of God. They kept calling them to come back to God, to continually change their ways and many didn’t want to be challenged in this way, so they got rid of the prophets. Killing them off was their way of shutting them up.
We constantly want to do things our own way, but the Lord says, ‘If you really want to follow me, then you must listen to what I tell you and follow the way that I point out to you.’ ‘The way’ is the way of Jesus Christ, but it is one that we constantly need to re-commit ourselves to. It is not enough to say, ‘Well I go to mass once in a while and I’m alright.’ The Lord Jesus is not just calling us to do something once a week, or once a month, but He is calling us to a whole way of living and thinking that affects everything we do. The Lord will never force us to follow him; He simply points out the way to us and invites us. We must make the decision.
Perhaps it seems like I’m preaching to the converted, but I believe that if we really want to grow in our faith, then we need to continually re-decide to follow Jesus Christ. The world around us may not agree with us, or like the way we live. Many people today are deciding not to be Christian anymore, perhaps not consciously, sometimes just by indifference. But the Lord is very strong in the Gospels about indifference. He demands a decision from us.
If any place does not welcome you and people refuse to listen to you, as you walk away shake off the dust from under your feet as a sign to them.