15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Let God be God
Amos delivered a message of justice in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. God had been forgotten in a time of material prosperity of the privileged few while most Israelites were facing dire poverty. Amos’ preaching provides a prophetic witness for all ages of God’s condemnation of the spiritual blindness of the upper-class and their unjust exploitation of the poor.
Amos explicitly linked justice toward one’s neighbour and righteousness before God established by God through the covenant at Sinai. Amos considered himself no more than a shepherd but through him God was calling Israel back to covenant standards of righteousness. He understood the ‘flock’ was straying and if they didn’t put God 1st righteousness wouldn’t exist.
In Amos we see the vocation of caring for and tending to the community originating in his shepherding of sheep. This simple shepherd put God 1st so his ability to look after others came from the profound faith he had in God to look after him. St Paul delivers a complimentary message. Belonging to God has significance for our lives. We are created to be holy and spotless according to God’s kind purpose. That purpose is to praise the glory of God’s grace.
This stumped me a little thinking of people who repeatedly cry out ‘praise Jesus, we praise you Lord’ and so on. It means our fulfillment is in praising the grace given to us in Christ who sacrificed himself for us. It is much deeper than the superficiality of words. Certainly, nowhere does this hymn (in Ephesians) praise self-reliance, the accumulation of wealth and living in isolation which is how we tend to live, and which is fertile ground for social injustice.
Moving to the Gospel, and in contrast to our current modern lifestyle, discipleship explicitly highlights faith in God’s providence. This means complete reliance on God who created us to also look after us. I believe the experience of God’s providential care is what empowered the disciples to show this care for their community. It was Amos’ experience as well albeit his response (of putting God 1st) was prior to Jesus. Now that God has given us everything in Christ it’s up to us to praise God by relying on the gifts of our faith that we receive from Jesus.
For this to work we need to let God be God in our lives. Members of the early Church were great examples of this. Although they were materially poor they were completely satisfied in their lifestyle of complete dependency on God. In their understanding that God was God they allowed God to care for them. This lesson seems to have been lost as so few of us live for God alone.
Praising God’s gracefulness by belonging wholly and wholeheartedly to God is what allows God to be God in our life. When we do this it’s the experience of God’s care that enables us to care for others, to share our blessings, and to work to restore justice in our communities. So, if we can see injustice perhaps we need to revisit the way we allow God to care for us; we need to revisit the way we allow God to be God in our life.