Scripture: Lectionary 136. 25 Sunday C . Amos 8:4-7. Psalm 113: 1-2,4-6,7-8. I Timothy 2:1-8. Luke 16:1-13:
Perhaps, the best kept secret in the Catholic Church is its social teachings about peace, justice, reconciliation, and concern for the environment. We became aware of this already in the last decade of the 1800 through Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical on Reconstructing the Social Order. I even was exposed to it without comprehending it by Sr. Mary Immaculate, a Dominican sister, who had twenty-eight of us read it without anyone really grasping how revolutionary such thought was. I was fourteen years old then. Now we have so many compendiums and workshops as well as encyclicals that to neglect knowledge about them would be sinful! I think the message of today’s readings are a scriptural source for such necessary knowledge and action in today’s society.
Amos did not want to be a prophet. He preferred being a horticulturist or what we hear in translation as a “trimmer of trees.” His scroll is a marvelous prophetic piece that primarily deals with tsedekah or biblical justice which may be best seen in social justice acts today. He prophesied between 765 and 750 B.C. during the reign of the idolatrous King Jeroboam of Israel (782-743 B.C.). An earthquake and an eclipse of the sun help us to have accurate dates for Amos and for Jeroboam II. His prophecies inveighed against the “indolence and selfishness of the parasitic rich on the one hand, and the misery and grinding poverty of the mass of people on the other.” (Rabbi S.M. Lehrman). Amos’ message everlasting import is that “if society is to exist, must rest on justice between persons and nations.” In many instances, Pope Francis has many of the characteristics of Amos and may give us a new look at the inspired words of the ancient prophet. Rabbi Lehrman helps us to honor Amos in our own time with whatever we can do to bring about social justice, ethical honesty in business, and simplicity in the way we live. The Rabbi tells us, “The fact remains that Amos was one of the greatest personalities in Biblical literature , a man whose lofty conception of God, universalism, defence of the oppressed, denunciation of injustice, and exposition of right conduct, entitle him to a foremost place among the pioneers of ethical religion.” Our short reading may spur us on to read the entire nine chapters of Amos and maybe to reread one of the papal encyclicals on social justice.
Who are the poor? Psalm 113 and its response are a prayer that helps us to see who they are. They are called the ‘Anawim (Poor of God) in the Psalms and our psalm does them justice. “Praise the Lord who lifts up the Poor.” This psalm is similar to Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-56) which is really a social justice prayer on the part of the Mother of God who is Mary of Nazareth, the mother of Jesus. We know that the “Lord hears the cry of the poor.”
I liken the words of I Timothy 2:1-8 as a purifying of our conscience which helps us to be aware of the injustices in our society. The habits of the heart or virtues found in Timothy calls us to be peacemakers and doers of social justice for the poor in our midst.
The Gospel ending is sober advice for those of us who are “takers and consumers” more than givers of God’s goodness to others. The powerful words are sharp: “You cannot give yourself to God and money.” This moves us to think more about the injustices toward the poor and the underprivileged and less about ourselves. Often the poor seem to be left only with God as the psalms imply. Their faith is a way of their coping with life, even though they are part of a highly global conscious community when it comes to communication of the plights of immigrants, war victims, and the exploited poor. Mary’s Magnificat and Amos’ prophecy may help us to become more aware of who we should be as followers of God through Amos and disciples of Jesus through Luke’s Gospel. Amen.
Copyright 2013 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.