The prophet hears what God proclaims ) and is called to speak in God’s name. The Twelve hear the message of Jesus and are sent forth to preach the gospel. In him we have been chosen to be full of love.
The Scriptures often illustrate how God calls ordinary people and empowers them to accomplish great things. The prophet Amos was a shepherd and a farmer when he received the prophetic call. Obedient to God, Amos left his home and his family and traveled to another country to preach to the royal house of Israel.
Amos met much resistance. Apparently he didn’t have the pedigree suitable to satisfy the hegemons of Israel and he encountered much resistance from the ancient Jewish power brokers in control of the world at that time. Yet Amos persevered because he believed in the vocation to which God called him. It would have been easy for him to quit and return to his farm but in his heart Amos knew that answering the summons from the Lord was the right thing to do.
The Book of the Prophet Amos is the third of twelve books in the collection of the Hebrew Scriptures called “the minor prophets.” These prophets are not “minor” because their prophesies were insignificant but because they wrote less prophetic poetry and narrative than the major prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, great prophets who produced reams and volumes of prophetic oracles.
However, Amos earned the distinction of being the first “writer prophet,”—he compiled book containing the sermons he preached during the years that he was active as a prophet (c.775-50 BC). In effect, Amos set the standard for the biblical genre of prophecy. He preached and wrote in defense of the poor who suffered at the hands of the rich and the haughty. He challenged the ruling class to return to authentic worship of God and to abandon their empty rituals, to quit “going through the motions,” and worship with integrity the living God.
Because Amos wasn’t a “professional prophet,” his adversaries didn’t take him seriously. Yet he persevered. His chief rival, Amaziah, a priest from the city of Bethel, Hebrew for “house of God” appealed to Amos surreptitiously to flee the city because the leaders wouldn’t accept his message, didn’t consider him to be a legitimate prophet.
Was it not that way with the Lord? In the Christian Scriptures the scribes and the Pharisees, the rulers and the chief priests, deride Jesus as being some backwoods charlatan who boasted on his own authority. Ordinarily in those days a prophet belonged to a royal court, or to a prophetic guild, or, like Samuel, came from a prophetic family.
Amos was different. He spoke on behalf of the Lord alone, didn’t attach himself to a union and therefore felt free to preach the truth because he wasn’t beholden to special interest groups, rich and powerful leaders, or established religious schools. Amos urged interior conversion and authentic worship rather than hollow ceremonies performed for the sake of getting the Lord’s attention. Throughout the pages of his book he continually defends the truth of who and what he was—a spokesman for the Lord. “I was not a prophet nor have I belonged to a company of prophets; I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamore trees. The Lord took me from following the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel’” (Am 7:14-15). To Amos, then, an ordinary man living a rustic life, the call from God was imperative: an offer he couldn’t refuse. “The lion has roared; who will not fear? The Lord has spoken; who can but prophesy?” (Am 3:8).
In the gospel Jesus sends his apostles out two by two on a mission to accomplish signs and wonders, concrete evidence of God’s kingdom. The apostles start out as rookies but Jesus prepared them to carry on the work that he began on the banks of the Jordan River. “Now is the time for fulfillment; the kingdom of God is at hand. Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel” (Mk 1:14-15).
Soon the apostles got the hang of the job. In time they changed the world. Jesus gave his followers explicit instruction: change the hearts and minds of nonbelievers, which is what a prophet is called to do. The Apostles were to trust that God would provide for their needs and that their labors wouldn’t be in vain. Clearly their work has borne fruit. Paul the Apostle, who was not one of the original twelve apostles, took evangelization to another level. Paul once was one of those rich and powerful rulers who lorded authority over the marginalized and the poor until God spoke to him through Jesus his son.
His conversion to the faith was so profound that he couldn’t not talk about it, preached about the grace of God for the rest of his life because he knew that God saved him. To Paul, salvation was God’s plan for humanity from before the beginning of time. He sees the Church as the worldwide vehicle of salvation for all men and all women, indeed, for all time. He chose us before the world began to be holy and blameless in his sight. In him we were chosen, destined in accordance with the one who accomplishes all things according to his will so that we might exist for the praise of his glory (Eph 1:1-3). God doesn’t choose us because we’re rich, hip, slick, or cool. He choses us and forgives our sins because he is merciful and so that we may become holy, as the Lord our God, is holy (Lev 20:26; 1 Pt 1:16).
The Church was established in time but conceived in the mind of God in eternity. Divine revelation is the Catholic truth that says he is with us always, “even to the end of the age,” and, like water, light, and sunshine, always provides for our needs. As with the apostles, less is more. The humility of God is such that he asked Amos, a simple shepherd and farmer, to help carry out his plan of salvation, just as Jesus asked his disciples to evangelize in his name. We in today’s Church are ordinary people called to accomplish the extraordinary works of salvation in the name of the Lord. A vocation from God is not something to refuse.