Daily Reflection
June 28th, 2004
Eileen Burke-Sullivan
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Amos 2:6-10, 13-16
Psalm 50:16bc-17, 18-19, 20-21, 22-23
Matthew 8:18-22

“I destroyed their fruit above and their roots beneath,” Amos quotes God as saying to the Israelites with the implication – what I have done to them for their injustice I will do, and more, to you.  What is it that the Israelites were doing that was so terrible in the eyes of God as to bring this threat of total destruction?  They were putting financial valuation on human life. They valued a pair of sandals more than the life of a human being.  They violated their most sacred relationships and practiced adultery while morally and sexually destroying their children. They were exacting high interest on loans to the poor (old fashioned credit cards) and taking ease and pleasure on the backs of the poorest of the poor.  Why, my goodness! Why on earth would God get excited about that?  It’s just “bidnes as usual” (to borrow a phrase from the Texas columnist, Molly Ivins) in most middleclass American neighborhoods. 

If God is ever witnessed as “wrathful” in the Old Testament, it is about intransigent injustice by the comfortable (and not necessarily powerful) toward those who are on the bottom of the social heap.  Amos cried out against injustice that seems almost “ordinary” and “normal” if we just think about the day-to-day dealings of the U.S. politics and economy. One need not dwell on the serious perversions of the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo or Abu Ghariab to worry about God’s wrath being stirred against us as a people. The symptoms of that behavior can be located in the smaller forms of cheating and violence many of us engage in without guilt or much thought.  We only have to think of the pleasure we take in media violence, the dehumanization of others in our thought and speech patterns, our entertainment, our jokes, and our relations with those with whom we work or study.  Even those of us who feel somewhat righteous – those who are serious about following the Gospel and challenge others to do so, we too fall into this trap as we throw charges of heresy about, and speak evil of others who seriously disagree with us or with our interpretation of God’s desire “You sit speaking against your brother, against your mother’s son.” Ps 50.20

Today’s Gospel says there is no place, material or ideological where we can set up shop as the “good guys.” Just as Jesus had no place to lay his head, neither do his disciples – either literally or figuratively.   Our confidence can be grounded only in the grace of an ever-growing relationship with the Jesus who is alive now and longs for our companionship on the journey into God’s Kingdom that he and the Spirit are making available to us.  It is a journey grounded in profound mutual respect for every other human person and in the humility that knows that God is God and we are not.

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