A reflection for the fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jennifer Vosters reflects on the readings for July 14, 2024.
Catholic Voices

Readings (Year B):

Amos 7:12 – 15
Psalms 85:9 – 10, 11 – 12, 13 – 14
Ephesians 1:3 – 14 or 1:3 – 10
Mark 6:7 – 13

Reflection: Who are the true prophets in our communities?

“Off with you, visionary.”

It is a sentiment that echoes across time and space, not just in the book of Amos: An ordinary person with a vision of change is first ridiculed, then punished, for daring to imagine something new. For bearing a message of a new kind of world, a new way of relating to others, self, and God. Instead of being met with respect or cautious curiosity, they are run out of town, usually by civic and spiritual leaders desperate to preserve the status quo. A gift from the Holy Spirit, rejected with a vengeance.

This happens to prophets throughout the scriptures, from Amos to Jesus and the early church. We see it play out again and again in our own history: Individuals try to share a truth that challenges the structures of their time, and they are met with fear, distrust, and usually violence. Protesters met with riot police. Community organizers doxed and threatened. Beloved leaders targeted, surveilled, maligned, jailed, even assassinated. MLK. Malcolm X. Mahatma Gandhi. Malala Yousafzai. Rachel Corrie. Off with you, visionaries. This isn’t the place for your voice, your protests. This isn’t the place for you.


Hindsight tends to be 20-20 for recognizing a visionary at work, but at the time, usually only the marginalized can see them for what they are; everyone else finds them annoying at best, dangerous at worst. Oscar Romero was criticized by fellow bishops before and even after his death. Nelson Mandela was on a U.S. Terror Watch List until 2008. In an age of 24-hour news cycles and social media echo chambers, how can we discern what true visionaries look like?

Today’s scriptures help us out. Visionaries do not look like kings or CEOs, military leaders or presidents, celebrities or even high-ranking clergy (most of the time). They are neighbors: shepherds like Amos, fishermen like the sons of Zebedee, homemakers like Martha, carpenters like Jesus. They look like the disciples: sent without power, building relationships with those who listen and moving on from those who don’t. They do not force their way into halls of power; they do not collude with oppressive systems to impose their will; they do not seek power at all. They lean on community and trust in abundance without hoarding wealth, prestige, or influence—no money, no sack, just sandals. Sharing their vision comes at personal cost rather than personal gain. And still—like Amos, like Jesus, like the disciples—they do it.

Whom do we write off because we can’t bear what they have to say? Is it, from time to time, Jesus himself?

May we release our fearful clinging to the status quo so that we, like the towns who received the disciples with welcome, may find healing in others. May we recognize the true prophets in our communities and, rather than banishing them like Amos, lend them our ears, our hands, our help. May we embrace the message of salvation that God sends visionary after visionary to teach us, a vision shared in today’s psalm: where “Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss; Truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven.”