July 1, 2020
July 3, 2020

Homily for 02 July 2020, Thursday of the 13th Week in Ordinary Time, Mat. 9:1-8

The other day I told you that prophets were called by many names: messengers, spokesmen, heralds, seers, visionaries, men of God. There is one other word that came to my mind today as I read our first reading from Amos: the word WATCHMAN. I think of such passages as Ezek 3:17, where the Lord says to the prophet Ezekiel, “Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman for Israel. Whenever you receive a message from me, warn people immediately.” Or Hosea 9:8, where we read, “The watchman of Ephraim, the people of my God, is the prophet.”
The watchman was the ancient version of the security guard. He was positioned strategically on a high place, where he could get an unobstructed view of the surroundings. Usually he is stationed in a watchtower connected to the city walls, around which he can make regular rounds.
He had to have a way of alerting the people inside the city about a looming danger, like enemies or invaders coming to attack them from outside. Imagine what it would be like if your village were under attack and you found out that the watchman was asleep?
In our first reading, the prophet Amos is being accused of intruding into the territory of the Nothern Kingdom of Israel, because he was a native of the Southern Kingdom of Judah, in the town of Tekoa. The priest Amaziah is driving him away, telling him to return to Judah where, he says, he should be doing his job as a prophet. In short, what Amaziah is telling Amos is this, “Hey man, you’re not in the payroll of the king as an official prophet, what are you doing in his territory?”
Amos replies and says, “Who told you I was here to earn money as a paid prophet? I had a lucrative job back home, you know. I own a sycamore tree farm and a sheep breeding business. But I am here because the Lord God sent me. Because he cares for you. Because you are going wayward and are heading towards a big disaster. He has assigned me here as your watchman. You are about to be occupied by a foreign empire and yet you remain complacent. It will be very tragic for you. I won’t go until I have communicated my message to the king.”
In our Gospel today, we have Jesus also playing the role of a watchman, but in a different way. He seems to deal with situations from a different vantage point. He sees a lot of things others do not see. How did he see the faith of the friends who carried the paralytic? Is it because he had special powers? How did he know what was in the minds of the Scribes who were there? Did he have X-ray vision? Or bionic ears?
You’re spoiling the story if you think like that. You will tend to forget that he was a human being like you and me. He also relied on his basic senses, but he obviously developed them very well, through discipline. You don’t have to be extraordinary to have keen senses and a heightened level of awareness. Being observant, sensitive, and keen, can be a human gift too.
Yes, there are people who are not like that, especially those who are lacking in empathy or compassion. Yes, we can also read minds, can’t we? We observe body language and interpret them, such as when people blush to certain remarks, or their nostrils dilate when they are saying things, or their throat moves and they swallow saliva when they are asked a question, or their eyes are narrowing or widening or when their eyebrows are raised, or when people look jittery. They say of all the parts of the body, it is the eyes that can give you away. They are the windows of the soul.
Take note, Jesus looked around him and interpreted what he saw: the faith of the carriers, the paralytic’s cry for mercy and expression of repentance, the offended look of the scribes, the amazement of the crowd.
Nowadays, people use the word WOKE to refer to a more heightened level of social awareness. It is actually the past tense of wake and describes a person coming to his senses on his own, not through someone else’s intervention, which might need the word AWAKENED.
From my own personal experience, it is the discipline of prayer and discernment that raises my own capacity to perceive things around, me, or to pick up details that are not so evident, as well as to interpret them or to warn others about them. Perhaps that is part of the discipline of prayer—the act of opening one’s inner eye, to be able to see as God sees, precisely so that you can also get others to see.

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