This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church
Reading 1, Amos 2:6-10, 13-16
6 The Lord says this: For the three crimes, the four crimes of Israel, I have made my decree and will not relent: because they have sold the upright for silver and the poor for a pair of sandals,
7 because they have crushed the heads of the weak into the dust and thrust the rights of the oppressed to one side, father and son sleeping with the same girl and thus profaning my holy name,
8 lying down beside every altar on clothes acquired as pledges, and drinking the wine of the people they have fined in the house of their god.
9 Yet it was I who destroyed the Amorite before them, he who was as tall as the cedars, as strong as the oaks; I who destroyed his fruit above ground and his roots below.
10 It was I who brought you up from Egypt and for forty years led you through the desert to take possession of the Amorite’s country;
13 Very well! Like a cart overloaded with sheaves I shall crush you where you stand;
14 flight will be cut off for the swift, the strong will have no chance to exert his strength nor the warrior be able to save his life;
15 the archer will not stand his ground, the swift of foot will not escape, nor will the horseman save his life;
16 even the bravest of warriors will jettison his arms and run away, that day! -declares the Lord!
The prophet Amos, who lived in the 8th century BCE, was a rural herdsman, afflicted by his sense of God’s justice, which led him to risk his life criticising the wealthy establishment of his people and their religious hangers-on. This passage was devised by a cunning editor, as the unexpected climax of a series of denunciations of other nations, who had offended God’s justice. “God’s people” it turns out will not escape punishment, indeed it will be more severe, because only they have been “known” that is, loved sexually, by God. Without doubt the divine anger articulated by Amos is like that of a spurned lover. God’s love and wisdom have been lavished on this people for nothing, for they have not learned a just and faithful way of life. In particular their upper class has become wealthy and corrupt, despising poor people, abusing women, misusing the law to their advantage.
From one point of view, our Bible is a sustained howl of divine rage against the arrogance, greed and violence of the rich, and the religious phonies who flatter them. Although this rage is not God’s last word, anyone who does not hear it, will not understand the forgiveness offered by the last word, the gospel of Jesus. Comfortable churches in comfortable societies need to hear the desert-dry voice of Amos’ God.
Gospel, Matthew 8:18-22
18 When Jesus saw the crowd all about him he gave orders to leave for the other side.
19 One of the scribes then came up and said to him, ‘Master, I will follow you wherever you go.’
20 Jesus said, ‘Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.’
21 Another man, one of the disciples, said to him, ‘Lord, let me go and bury my father first.’
22 But Jesus said, ‘Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their dead.’
I used this passage yesterday in worship, and asked, “What on earth is Jesus doing, rubbishing potential recruits?” The Church’s commission of evangelism would be appalled at any minister adopting this strategy. After all, we are salesmen…..aren’t we?
I reminded the congregation of the story of Gideon who tests the large force of volunteers in his army by marching them off their feet in the hot sun, and taking them to a river. Only the small numbers, who maintain readiness while drinking, are selected as his fighting force.
Jesus is marching to Jerusalem to battle against the forces of wealth, power and corrupt religion. He knows the fight will be dangerous and costly. Only those who are ready for sacrifice should follow him. Sometimes Jesus is as harsh as Amos.
The spiritual and moral rigour evident in these passages is not evident enough in my life. They ask me to question my own practice of faith.