Saturday, July 11, 2015
Amos, who we read about in today’s First Reading, lived more than 700 years before Christ. We know that he left a good life in the south and headed to the Northern Kingdom of Israel to condemned the bad behavior, especially that of the rich and powerful who exploited and took advantage of the poor. The book of Amos is divided into three parts. In the first section, Amos rails against the sins of far-away of kingdoms; then the sins of his own Southern Kingdom; and finally, he attacks the sins of the Northern Kingdom – its exploitation of the poor, immorality, senseless forms of worship, and rejecting God’s prophets. Amos demand that God come down upon Israel in judgment. In the second section, Amos goes on to detail “why” Israel needed to be punished – for its failure to meet their social and religious obligations. In the third section, Amos rails against the meaningless sacrifices and public rituals that were being conducted while the poor remained oppressed and exploited. Amos challenged the people of Israel to change their ways, as God’s judgment was imminent. The book of Amos gives us a unique historical glimpse into the great prosperity of the Northern Kingdom: the fever of commercial activity, the frenzy of banquets and festivities, the unbridled luxury of the rich and powerful. And at the same time, we read of the lack of conscience of the rich, their abuses of power, and exploitation of the poor. Sound familiar? No prophet is more easily relatable to the modern world than Amos – the social inequities that he denounced 25 hundred years ago are still very much with us today. While the Church has a strong and consistent teaching on the dignity of each person and for the priority we must give for the care of the poor – often our efforts are too little and too late for the most vulnerable. Like Amos, we – Church leaders and members - must continue to be a voice for the most vulnerable in our community and world, and we must regularly and generously give from our resources to those most in need. The prophet Amos, combined with our Second Reading and Gospel, also reveal two important truths of our faith. First, Amos was grounded in the covenant relationship between God and Israel. He was empowered – really so angered – when he saw such great offenses against God as when the Israelites rejected, or at least ignored, God’s will for them. We too are a covenant people – we too are in relationship with God. We are made by him, made in his image and likeness. And even further, as today’s Second Reading reminds us: God chose us, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him – he gives us every spiritual blessing in the heavens and gives us all wisdom and insight, so that we might know his will and plan for us. And even though we sinned against him and reject his love and will for us, today’s second reading reminds us that God the Father forgives our sins and restores us in relationship with him by sacrificing his very own Son. It is in this relationship that we find our value and worth, our true meaning and purpose. See, God has placed in our hearts such an infinite desire for happiness that nothing can satisfy it but God himself. We try to find happiness in so many other things, right? We are even willing to redefine God’s commands and what society has held as sacred. Our value and worth, our true meaning and purpose is found only in God. Yes, there are other important things – like family and friends, work to provide for the resources you need, things to keep us safe and healthy, but nothing is as important as our relationship with God. Second, today’s readings remind us that when we understand and live fully our relationship with God, nothing else matters. Amos, was a D.I.P. – that is a double-income-prophet (he was a farmer with income from both cattle and taking care of trees, so he was well-off). But he left it all to do God’s will; he even endured hostility, persecution, and embarrassment – as we read today – to do the will of God. The same is true of the Apostles in today’s Gospel. They left everything – I mean everything except the clothes they were wearing – and followed Jesus’ command to spread the Good News. When we understand and live fully our relationship with God, nothing else matters and we are able to do great things. While we are all not called to give up everything we have, we are called to take risks, move outside our comfort zone, and sacrifice what we think is important by earthly standards – like personal gratification and the possession of stuff. This week, pray that in Jesus’ example of love, through Jesus’ gift of grace to help us, and with Jesus’ constant care for us, we can know God’s will for us and be ready to serve him and others. May God bless you.
Posted by Jeffrey Fortkamp at 10:19 AM