Summary: There are prophets in every age speaking for God. In our age Pope Benedict has called us to look at Charity in Truth, and consider our responsibilities to the world economically.

Fifteenth Sunday in Course

The Prophet

July 12, 2009

All over the temperate zone, fruit from the varieties of fig and sycamore are ripening now, and so the Church gives us a reading from the migrant worker, Amos, the reluctant prophet. I call him a migrant worker because he engaged in seasonal labor–dressing and harvesting the sycamore figs in one season, and tending sheep in another. Amaziah, the priest in the illegitimate sanctuary of Bethel, didn’t like Amos hanging around prophesying against the great king Jeroboam. The second king of Israel–remember they had split from the legitimate house of David hundreds of years earlier–Jeroboam had expanded the kingdom and brought a great forty-year economic revival to the wealthy. They bought ivory beds and lay around listening to popular music. They bought high-priced cosmetics and made the priests rich with offerings. But they were full of corruption, swearing by false prosperity gods and cheating the poor, building their Mcmansions on land they stole from their workers. They inflated the currency to pay for their crimes and so impoverished those living on fixed incomes. So Amos listened to the Spirit of the Lord and spoke the truth. Amaziah and Jeroboam, instead of repenting their sins and turning back to the right path, tried to chase Amos out of their territory. But Amos had been right. The sins of the Israelis caught up with them, and within twenty-five years, they were invaded twice and destroyed by the Assyrians.

There is no free ride to glory for those of us who have been blessed in Christ with every spiritual gift. In fact, more is expected of us than of the pre-Christian Israelites. We who have hoped in Christ are destined and commissioned to live, as Paul taught, for the praise of God’s glory. There is a kind of perfection of humanity in living to praise our Father. That’s why just before the Gospel, the Church has developed in its chant a wonderful extension of the Gospel Acclamation Alleluia called the jubilus, sung on the syllable Ja, which is the shortened version of the name of God. Today’s is a short one–the jubilus is thirty-one notes long, and I wish you could hear it.

That’s what God has called us to do–we are most human when we are fulfilling our destiny and living daily a life of praise. That is the proper response for those who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

This is not a reality we can sit on, either. The Church is, by divine direction, a missionary Church. We are called to love effectively, and part of that involves witnessing by our lives and words the mercy of God who calls us to Christ. This is not a calling limited to the Twelve, or to the bishops or priests or deacons or religious. It is a calling to all of us. Do we show love to our extended families by refusing to discuss the two most important areas of life–politics and religion? Not very well. Do our coworkers know we are Catholics, and do they believe it from our words and actions?

This week the Church has given us a marvelous opportunity for evangelism. The newspapers and Internet even covered the event–Pope Benedict issued his long-awaited encyclical, a development on the Church’s social teaching called Caritas in veritate, “Love in Truth.” In your casual conversations with your friends and co-workers, it’s always acceptable to talk about the latest news. Try this line out tomorrow: “what do you think about the Pope’s new encyclical?” [wait a moment] If you get stunned silence, you have a couple of options. One is to go to the Vatican website and print out a page of quotes from the encyclical to hand out. The other is to quote a line yourself, perhaps saying, “I was really struck by him beginning with charity, love, instead of justice, as the ‘force which leads people to opt for courageous and generous engagement in the field of justice and peace.’”

Or you might ask “do you think he is right that charity has been emptied of meaning, detached from ethical living and undervalued by our society?”

Try: “I wonder what he means when he says that “Only in truth does charity shine forth, only in truth can charity be authentically lived. Truth is the light that gives meaning and value to charity.”

You can also ask if your friends think the Pope has any business telling the world how to pursue economic development, or commenting on globalization or economic policies. Is it, you might ask, even possible to judge development goals by their humane and humanizing value? Do we have a responsibility as a nation, or as nations working together, to share the goods of the earth, or should it be every nation for itself, and the powerful rule?

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