Speak Lord: that we may be found

puppets-puppet-museum-marseilles

The almighty Lord says this:

Woe to those ensconced so snugly in Zion
and to those who feel so safe on the mountain of Samaria,
those famous men of this first of nations
to whom the House of Israel goes as client.
Lying on ivory beds
and sprawling on their divans,
they dine on lambs from the flock,
and stall-fattened veal;
they bawl to the sound of the harp,
they invent new instruments of music like David,
they drink wine by the bowlful,
and use the finest oil for anointing themselves,
but about the ruin of Joseph they do not care at all.
That is why they will be the first to be exiled;
the sprawlers’ revelry is over.

Amos 6:1,4-7

The first reading at Mass today, the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, comes – as did last week’s – from the prophet Amos. He describes the decadence of Israel, the Israel which has left the Lord and who are now to find themselves lost, abandoned by the Lord…

The tribes of Israel, the Northern Kingdom are lost to history, vanquished in war, and taken off into exile. Called to be a nation set apart, they find themselves cast adrift and their identity as a group lost…

  • What experiences of being lost and found can you recall?
  • What experiences can you recall of helping someone else  ‘lost’ to become ‘found’.
  • Bring your memories and feelings to God in prayer.

Puppets,  Fort Saint Jean, Marseille. (c) 2013, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Justice

cup-of-justice

The first reading at Mass on Sunday, the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, offered challenging words from the prophet Amos.

Listen to this, you who trample on the needy
and try to suppress the poor people of the country,
you who say, ‘When will New Moon be over
so that we can sell our corn,
and sabbath, so that we can market our wheat?
Then by lowering the bushel, raising the shekel,
by swindling and tampering with the scales,
we can buy up the poor for money,
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
and get a price even for the sweepings of the wheat.’
The Lord swears it by the pride of Jacob,
‘Never will I forget a single thing you have done.’

Amos 8:4-7

Having heard the words again, and perhaps, again, been chastened by them, what might we do?

It is possible that we may be guilty of these injustices ourselves, personally and directly. If so, the way ahead may seem clear.

More complex is it, if we feel free from such deliberate, personal injustice, but complicit in systems that unjustly, cruelly, exploit the vulnerable for the profit of multinationals whose products we consume (at best price!) or the more ‘advanced’ economies which abuse their economic and political stability disadvantaging emerging economies and ‘newer’, less well resourced communities and nations. What then?

The motto ‘Live Simple’ points one way forward. Deliberately supporting charities and other organisations that seek to resource and reinforce more fragile communities is another.

  • How do you respond to injustice?

The cup of justice. Iona Abbey. (c) 2011, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of new beginnings.

Samaria II

The gospel today, the 15th Sunday of the Year, focusses on the mission of the 12. Mission did not begin with them and the first reading at Mass today reminds us of the prophet Amos.

Bearer of a profound critique of Israel, Amos was no willing prophet, nor welcome in Israel. But he served the Lord, faithfully and well.

Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, said to Amos, ‘Go away, seer;’ get back to the land of Judah; earn your bread there, do your prophesying there. We want no more prophesying in Bethel; this is the royal sanctuary, the national temple.’

‘I was no prophet, neither did I belong to any of the brotherhoods of prophets,’ Amos replied to Amaziah ‘I was a shepherd, and looked after sycamores: but it was the Lord who took me from herding the flock, and the Lord who said, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”’

Amos 7:12-15

Amos had two jobs, sheep and trees. Now he had a third – reminding Israel of its true nature, of being a communion of people with God. It had no independent existence. Did not need its national king, it’s national Temple. God alone sufficed and more than sufficed. And without God all else was petty and transient. And so it proved. Israel fell and was lost.

Today’s Gospel has the 12 – noble in their vocation and trust, but scarcely in their economic state or social position, sent out to recover a people for God: by God to help his people heal and be reconciled. They are more succesful in their mission than Amos was!

  • In whom do we trust?
  • How do we know?
  • Would others agree?

The image above is not of remnants of Bethel but of Samaria, another Israelite Royal cultic centre against which Amos prophesied. Here is a 19th Century image of the believed site of the city of Bethel.

Bethel 1894 DanielBShepp