“Go away, seer” - Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > “Go away, seer” - Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

“Go away seer; get back to the land of Judah ……….. We want no more prophesying in Bethel, this is the royal sanctuary, the national temple”

Thus was the prophet Amos given his marching orders. His prophesying was not appreciated because it was not in line with the official position as promoted by the priests at the royal sanctuary.

Prophets in the Old Testament often met with resistance and rejection. It was part of the lot of being a prophet. Yet they had been raised up by God to speak his word to the people. As Amos said, “it was the Lord who took me from herding the flock and the Lord who said, ‘go prophesy to my people Israel’”. Prophets had an unenviable task. They were chosen by God and had not aspired to the role themselves. Some like Jeremiah constantly complained about his lot in life. They were outsiders among their own kind. They felt ostracised. They were the odd ones out.

As the question of redefining marriage continues to be debated in our society - there is something every day about it in the newspapers – there are a number of important questions that have to be addressed. One is the willingness of people who support a change in the definition of marriage to be tolerant of those who hold the opposing view. The popular view in the media is that those of same sex attraction (around 2% of the population) should have tolerance shown them. The Catholic Church would agree that those of same sex attraction deserve respect and acceptance.  There is no argument here.

That this tolerance should be extended to redefining the nature of marriage to include those who wish to have their same sex relationship considered to be marriage is a point of contention not only with the Catholic Church but with other major Christian churches and indeed many of the world’s major religions. It presents a very significant change in the way humanity has considered the nature of marriage.
Same sex couples have received all the legal protections that they need by legislation during the Rudd government. The question is now their desire to have their unions considered a marriage.

However, there is another issue of great importance here. If the government does amend the Marriage Act so that a marriage is now defined as between two people, and not between a man and a woman, will those advocating for this change be satisfied or will they demand that all of society comply with this new definition. Will they be intolerant of anyone who holds the contrary view?

For example, will it become mandatory that all children are taught that marriage can be between two men or two women or one man and one woman? Will we find in time that a child comes home from primary school  and asks the parents: “when I grow up should I marry a man or a woman?”

Will a business which does not want to be involved with a same sex marriage ceremony be fined for this?

Will a adoption agency which believes that children are best nurtured by a father and a mother be forced to close its doors because it is not willing to adopt children to same sex couples?

Will a Christian school be able to require teachers to adhere to its beliefs about the nature of marriage as between a man and a woman?

Will a Christian residential facility be able to only accept heterosexual couples?

There are many questions like these that need to be asked. And little attention has been given to these questions in the debate so far.

Already the signs are not good. Overseas experience has shown that there is a marked intolerance towards any person or agency who does not accept the changed definition of marriage. There is clear intolerance towards those who have religious convictions about the nature of marriage.

The question here is whether tolerance will only be going one way. Will those who have deeply held beliefs about the nature of marriage now experience intolerance not only at the personal level but from government agencies? Will the instruments of government become agents of a new intolerance?

In this debate little attention has been given to the question of religious freedom. The question of respect for sincerely held religious beliefs has to be a consideration in the current debate. Tolerance has to go both ways.

In the Gospel today the Lord instructed his disciples before sending them out in pairs to carry out his mission of preaching and healing. He said that where they are welcomed they are to serve the people. He also said that where they are not accepted that they should move on. The Lord anticipated that his disciples would not find universal acceptance. This is increasingly the lot of the Christian in many democratic Western societies. It appears that on this issue of marriage, Christians are receiving a good deal of rejection and outright antagonism. They are being punished for what they believe.

Amos was told to go away. He was told to go away because he was not espousing the party line, the government policy. Is the experience of Amos indicative of what will await Christians if the definition of marriage is changed?

“Go away seer; get back to the land of Judah ……….. We want no more prophesying in Bethel, this is the royal sanctuary, the national temple”

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Saturday, 11 July 2015