Tag Archives: Amos

The prophet and the national feast

“I hate, I spurn your feasts.”
Amos 5:21

In most of the world, outside the US, the first reading for Mass is from the prophet Amos, 5: 14-15, 21-24. Reading Amos is not the most patriotic way to celebrate the feast of the Independence of the US. Amos did not mince words, but spoke up for the poor and oppressed, in the face of patriotic piety and a pious patriotism that melded the nation of Israel with a religiosity that said little or nothing about justice and the poor.

“Let justice prevail at the gate,” where pleas for justice were heard, proclaims the prophet.

Where is there justice, especially for those at the margins, at the borders? Does justice prevail or do we face, in the words of the prophet Daniel Berrigan, “the dark side of imperial ‘normalcy’.”

According to the code of palace and temple, it is normal that integrity be despised and just judges be derided (or removed) normal that the weak be crushed and ruinous tithes imposed, normal that oppressors and extortionists flourish.
(Minor prophets: Major Themes, pp.144-145)

The solution is simple, says Amos 5:24:

…let justice surge like water,
and goodness/righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

A fourth of July meditation

Hear this, you who trample on the needy,
to do away with the weak of the land…
I will turn your festivals into mourning,
and all your singing into wailing.
Amos 8: 4, 10

 While the US celebrates Independence Day with its proper lectionary readings, the universal church continues reading the prophet Amos, with his warnings against oppressing the poor.

Today the universal church also celebrates the feast of Saint Elizabeth of Portugal, a queen who was a peacemaker and a lover of the poor.

St. Elizabeth, the daughter of the king of Aragon was given in marriage to the king of Portugal. As a queen she cared for the poor and needy, founding hospitals, orphanages, and homes for homes for “fallen women,” She cared for her children as well as the children of her husband’s affairs.

But she is known as the patroness of peace for her efforts to reconcile warring parties, many of whom were her relatives.

After her husband’s death, she lived as a poor Franciscan tertiary near a convent of the Poor Clares, but continued her work of reconciling enemies and preventing wars.

As noted in Robert Ellsberg’s Blessed Among All Women, she once said:

 Do not forget that when sovereigns are at war they can no longer busy themselves with their administration: justice is not distributed; no care is taken of the people; and this alone is your sovereign charge: this is the main point of your duty as kings.

All nations, especially the US, should take her words into account as well as the warning of the prophet Amos.

I dare say that Thomas Merton had it right when he wrote more than forty years ago:

It seems to me that there are very dangerous ambiguities about our democracy in its actual present condition. I wonder to what extent our ideals are now a front for organized selfishness and systematic irresponsibility. If our affluent society ever breaks down and the facade is taken away, what are we going to have left?