Her name was Olga Bejano Dominguez. From the age of 23, after a series of illnesses and a heart attack, she was left unable to see, speak, move or breathe without the assistance of a machine. Faced with loneliness and despair, she decided to give her life to God and find in her faith a reason to keep on living with hope. With the help of a nurse, she wrote four books about her experiences and insights which became bestsellers throughout her native Spain. Upon her death in December of 2008, her mother said that at least four people were inspired to not commit suicide because of her daughter's writings. Most people would have considered Olga's life over the minute she lost use of her eyes, voice and limbs. And yet she saw her life as only just beginning. God called her at the moment she seemed most weak and unable to serve him and used her to inspire others with the hope that all things are possible with him.
His name was Amos, a poor shepherd from the town of Tekoa, south of Jerusalem. Though uneducated, he was called by God to speak his word at the royal temple of Bethel. Because of its prestige, Bethel was the home of the most educated priests of Israel. King Jeroboam, who was ruling over Israel at the time, had at his beck and call any number of prophets willing to tell him whatever he wanted to hear. And yet God called a simple shepherd to warn the king that Israel was headed for sure destruction if they did not return to the pure worship of the Lord who had given them the Promised Land. The priests and prophets of King Jeroboam's court would look down their noses at Amos asking him by what right he dared speak to the king. They told him to go somewhere else to find work as a prophet. Yet Amos continued to speak out recognizing that it was not by his own authority that he was speaking but by command of the God of hosts. Despite his lack of credentials, Amos is the first prophet of the Old Testament to have a book named after him. Amos trusted not in his own knowledge and ability, but in the power of God, and God used him to bring his word to the most powerful people of the day.
Their names were Peter, Andrew, Matthew, Thomas, Phillip, Bartholomew, John, James, Simon, Jude, James, son of Alphaeus, and Judas Iscariot. They were simple fishermen, tax collectors and political radicals. Unlike the scribes and Pharisees of the day, they held no prestige and could make no claim to being experts in the Law. Yet Jesus chose them to be the ones to bring his teaching to the people of Israel. In today's gospel, he sends them out with nothing except the clothes on their backs. Despite their lack of education and resources, they are able to cast out demons and heal the sick - miracles which the Pharisees and scribes were never able to perform. Jesus chose simple men for the great task of preaching repentance to the nations. He made them the foundation of the Church he would build which he promised would last through all ages. We stand here today as witnesses to their success through the power of the Holy Spirit.
What is your name? What do you do? How is God calling you? What is keeping you from saying "yes" to God's call?
Each of us has been called by God for a task which only we can perform. Each of us is irreplaceable in the sight of God. Saint Paul tells us in the second reading that we were chosen by him even before the world began. No one else in the history of the universe can do what God is calling us to do.
Are we afraid that we do not have enough education? Are we afraid that we do not have enough resources? Are we afraid that we do not have enough talent?
Certainly, most of us have an advantage over Olga Bejano Dominguez. She could not see, speak, move or even breathe. Yet she was able to spread God's word of hope throughout Spain. What excuses could we make when faced with her example of courage and perseverance?
We most certainly have more education and resources than the prophet Amos and the apostles did. Yet their words continue to inspire us over the centuries. Can we honestly say that we are ill-equipped to spread God's word when we consider the obstacles which they faced?
There is only one resource that is necessary to accomplish God's will - faith. That is why Jesus sends the apostles out with nothing except their clothes, sandals and a walking stick. They already carried within themselves all that they needed to preach the gospel of repentance. We were given that faith at our baptism and it is continually being nourished by Scripture and by the sacraments. No amount of talent or education can take the place of what simple faith is able to accomplish in our lives and in our world. Each of us already carries within us what allowed Olga Bejano Dominguez to overcome her disabilities and what compelled Amos and the apostles to spread God's word with boldness.
Whoever we are, whatever we are and wherever we are, we are each called to witness to the power and love of our Almighty God. It does not require lofty rhetoric or complicated philosophical arguments. It does not require wealth or prestige. It only requires of us simple faith to believe that God has placed people in our lives for a reason and that he will give us whatever we need to bring his word into the lives of those we live with, work with or bump into in the course of our everyday lives. God has called each of us here today to hear this challenging message and is sending each of us from here as messengers of his good news. Can anything hold us back when God himself is our strength?