From the Pastor's Desk
 
"Lord, I want to see"
 
Again today, as last Sunday, we hear from the prophet Amos; that is pretty unusual since the book of Amos comprises only nine short chapters, only seven pages long in the New American Bible (the translation we use at mass). Amos is a minor prophet who preached during the indulgent reign of Jeroboam II (786-746 B.C.). He prophesied in Israel at the cult center of Bethel, from which he was eventually expelled by the priest in charge of this sanctuary. His poetry denounces the hollow prosperity of the northern kingdom with images taken from his background as a shepherd. His prophecies condemn numerous areas (Damascus, Philistia, Tyre, Edom) but he saves his greatest condemnation for Israel, whose idolatry and lack of justice he sees as sins against the light granted to her. (“To whom much is given, much is expected.”) When Amos prophesied the overthrow of the sanctuary and the captivity of the people, they did not want to hear it. The priest of Bethel drove Amos from the shrine. Amos was a prophet of divine justice and the absolute sovereignty of God in all things. He tried to call the people back to the high moral and religious demands of the law and the revelations of God. Yet Amos knew that divine punishment is never total destruction, but rather part of the hidden plan of God to bring salvation to all. He understood that human sinfulness could never totally frustrate the design plan of a loving God.

With this small summary of the work of Amos, it is easy to see why the Church chooses to present his words today. They are so in sync with the parable of Jesus in the Gospel. Amos condemns their opulent lifestyle while they ignore the needs of the poor, the oppressed, the outcasts and the powerless. Amos repeatedly warned the people that if they continued to disregard the economic and social injustices of their nation, divine judgment would rain down upon them (“Woe to the complacent in Zion!”). Amos could very easily be talking to the folks of our own time and place. Complacency is a temptation for us today also. Here in our own little rural corner of the diocese we are some- what insulated from the violence of the cities, but not so much from the poverty that affects so many around us. Amos would ask, “Are these not your brothers and sisters? Are we blind to their presence in our midst? 
 
The rich man in the Gospel parable chose not to see Lazarus, the poor, hungry man at his door, even though he knew he was there. He even knew his name. But he chose to remain blind to his needs, not even giving him the scraps from his table. Doing so would have been an acknowledgment that he could do something to make a difference. To comfort himself from guilt he chose to ignore Lazarus, to pretend that there was nothing he could do. The condemnations of Amos where no more striking than those of Jesus. (I was hungry and you gave me no food!”) 
 
At the end of Jesus’ parable, Abraham dismisses the rich man’s pleas from his place of torment to send Lazarus from his place of refreshment to warn his brothers, saying that “neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.”

Luke knew, of course, when he wrote his Gospel, that someone did rise from the dead!

What difference does that dictum of our faith, the resurrection of the Lord, make in our lives?

Does the resurrection of Jesus, two thousand years later, change our hearts? Does the victory of Jesus move us to recognize our complacency and blindness? Are we more conscious of the compassion of Christ? Can we allow Christ to use us to extend God’s mercy to those in need?
 
God is hitting my own heart lately with my poor response to the needs of others. At the reunion of my Passionist family last weekend, I was reminded of how I promised four years ago to stay in touch with some of them but completely failed to do so. This morning (Tuesday) the hearse arrived from Columbia, MO and the funeral director got out and exclaimed, “Bob Knight!”) Turns out we were in the college seminary together some 45 years ago. God is reminding me how easy it is to not think of others and stay in touch. And perhaps it is worse that I often do not find time for the folks right in front of me, my parish family.

Let us pray to take on more fully the mind and heart of Jesus.
Peace, Fr. Bob 
 

 
 
 
    
 
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