|The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, Katsushika Hokusai|
The Japanese tell a story of an old man who lived in a beautiful home on top of a mountain. Each day he took a walk in his garden and looked out at the sea below. One day he noticed that the water was acting strangely – it appeared dark; it moved against the wind and drew away from the shore. The old man knew exactly what that meant, and he knew that he had to warn his neighbors in the village along the shore. He quickly grabbed a torch and set fire to his house. When the villagers saw the flames, some said “Let’s climb the mountain to save our friend,” while others said, “He’s gone mad! Why else would he set his house on fire? Let him be.” Well, the villagers who climbed the mountain to save their neighbor were themselves saved. Those who remained in the village below perished in the tsunami that struck the shore. That old man was a good messenger. Today’s readings are teaching us how to be good messengers, too.
In our first reading, Amos reveals himself as a reluctant prophet. He was perfectly happy living his life as a shepherd and dresser of sycamores (I’ll explain what that is after Mass), but when God’s call came, Amos left his happy life to take up the much more difficult life as God’s messenger. In our Gospel passage, Jesus sends the apostles out two-by-two to bring his message to the people – to preach repentance, drive out demons and heal the sick. These readings remind us of the waters of baptism when each one of us was commissioned as a prophet, as God’s messenger, and they teach us what it takes to be a good messenger: We have to know the message; we have to live the message; and we have to love our neighbor.
I think we can all agree that a good messenger has to know the message. “When the apostles went out to preach, they did not create a message; they brought a message. They didn’t tell people what they believed and what they considered probable; they told people what Jesus had told them.” So it’s our duty as messengers to understand Jesus’ message. How many of us can say that we can explain our faith comfortably to our children, to our colleagues at work, or to a member of another faith? We have to know and understand what Jesus said in order to deliver his message. We need to immerse ourselves in scripture and Church teachings; we need to plunge head-first into faith formation programs; we need to ask questions; and we need to plumb the depths of every resource available to us to find the answers (like what a dresser of sycamores is).
But knowing the Christian message is much more than simply understanding the words. To know the Christian message, we have to know Jesus. Jesus is God’s Word made flesh. God’s Word isn’t relegated to dusty pages sitting on a shelf. It’s alive and incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ. “It is the encounter with and dwelling with Jesus that creates disciples. The apostles are able to represent Jesus because they know him and have lived with him.” We need to know him, too. To know Jesus’ message, we have to develop a deep, personal relationship with him. We need to speak openly and honestly with Jesus in prayer, casting our burdens before him and thanking him for saving our souls. We need to fill ourselves with his divine love through the gift of the Eucharist. We need to live as he lived.
Jesus’ message is meant to be lived. It’s not a message sealed in a bottle that bobs aimlessly with the ebbs and flows of life. It’s a tidal wave of faith, hope and love intended to flood the hearts of every person. It’s a no-frills, take action kind of life. In our Gospel “we see that the mark of the Christian disciple was to be utter simplicity, complete trust, and generosity.” It’s a great way to live because it’s a joy-filled life. As Pope Francis Tweeted last year, “I cannot imagine a Christian who does not know how to smile.” We have every reason to smile. And smiles are infectious. So the best way to deliver Jesus’ message is to live that message – to live a joyful life anchored in faith, hope and love. “It is not by proselytizing that the Church grows, but by attraction.” Good messengers live Jesus’ message in such a way that it’s irresistible.
Finally, a good messenger has to love his neighbor. Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us that “to love is to will the good of another.” That’s why when we have a good thing, we want to share it with our loved ones. The Christian message is such a good thing that it flows right through us; love compels us to share it. But love also requires that we honor human dignity by respecting each person’s God-given free will. “Speaking the truth by no means guarantees acceptance, for the truth will be uncomfortable for some.” We can’t force Christ’s message on anyone. Even the most compelling messenger, Jesus himself, was rejected. But he loves us all the same. So “when we bring the Gospel it must be with a spirit of humility.” It must be with a spirit of love. A good messenger loves his neighbor, even when he’s rejected by him.
Readings: Amos 7: 12-15; Psalm 85; Ephesians 1: 3-14; Mark 6: 7-13
 William Barclay, The New Daily Study Bible: Gospel of Mark (Louisville, Westminster John Knox Press, 2001) at 166.
 John W. Martens, “Where Do You Live?” America, vol. 213, no. 1 (July 6-13, 2015) at 45.
 Barclay at 166.
 Pope Francis, Twitter, January 30, 2014.
 Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium (Vatican City, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Nov. 24, 2013) at 14.
 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I-II, 26.4, corp. art.
 Donald E. Gowan, “Amos,” The New Interpreter’s Bible (Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1996) at 412.
 Martens at 27.