July 1, 2020
by Ed Morse
Creighton University's School of Law
click here for photo and information about the writer

Wednesday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 379

Amos 5:14-15, 21-24
Psalm 50:7, 8-9, 10-11, 12-13, 16bc-17
Matthew 8:28-34

Praying Ordinary Time

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Judging Others? Or Ourselves?

Today’s readings begin with a simple command coupled with a promise: “Seek good and not evil, that you may live; Then truly will the LORD, the God of hosts, be with you as you claim!” The prophet Amos told the people to amend their ways.  They claimed to be following God by doing ceremonial things, but their basic commitment to “seek[ing] good and not evil” required attention. 

Deep thinkers are sometimes perplexed by seeking good. We can find guidance by looking to moral truths revealed in Scripture and taught by the Church.  But there is also a sense in which categories of good and evil are already known to us, as our inner selves are attracted to good and repulsed by evil.  Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) described an “inner sense”, “something like an original memory of the true and the good” that God implanted in us, which he called anamnesis.  (For further discussion, see David Schindler’s excellent article at 46:2 Communio 333 (Summer 2019)).

Anamnesis is found in passages such as Romans 2:14-15, where St. Paul describes the Gentiles who lacked the Scriptures as having moral law “written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness.”  But we are not autonomous in this area; God’s gift requires formation in the context of “regular familial discussion” (Ratzinger), formation and training that the Church provides.  Suppressing this inner witness and ignoring its formation leads us away from good and toward the evil that should repulse us.  Despite professing good intentions, we can choose inferior ways that we think might make us more comfortable, but they are not good.

Today’s gospel illustrates such a choice by the Gadarenes.  Biblical scholars debate the exact location of these events, but the text reveals some information.  The population is probably Gentile.  Swine were being kept in the area – something that observant Jews would not do.  Two men were possessed by demons, living as savages among the tombs and harassing local travelers, including Jesus and his disciples.  The demons recognized Jesus, calling him “Son of God”.  Knowing that Jesus would save these men, they pleaded with him to send them into a herd of swine.  Jesus responded simply: “Go then!”  The demons left the men but caused the peaceful swine to plunge to their deaths. News spread quickly. “Thereupon, the whole town came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him they begged him to leave their district.”

Like those demons, these townspeople recognized Jesus’ authority.  They saw evidence from miraculous signs in which savage men were calmed and restored.  But the local swine herd was decimated.  Unlike other healing miracles, this miracle had also imposed costs.  Surely other townspeople needed healing and restoration!  But I think the townspeople worried about what other costs might be imposed if Jesus remained. 

Amos’ admonition stings me.  Doing ceremonial things is easier than following the inner witness to seek good and avoid evil.  I also share the Gadarenes’ wariness of the Lord, keeping him at a distance because I fear what it might cost me, without recognizing that he alone is good.  When we sin by suppressing the anamnesis, we deform our inner selves.  Thanks be to God that the inner sense He implanted within us is still there, making us uncomfortable with our bad choices, drawing us to repentance!

God is good.  He leads us to life in which truth, beauty, and goodness abound.  The way of sin deforms us, keeping us burdened and in chains.  Come near, Lord Jesus.  Heal and restore our inner selves.  Help us seek after you, who alone embody all that is good.  Thanks be to God. 

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