Psalm 50:16bc-17, 18-19,
“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.