July 04. Wednesday of Week Thirteen
Amos 5:14ff. If justice and goodness are absent, liturgy is an empty shell. Where they are found, it is pleasing to God and productive of grace.
Matt. 8:28ff. Jesus cures two madmen and drives their demons into a herd of swine that rush into the sea. Then he is begged to leave the area.
While we congratulate our American friends on their national holiday of “Independence Day” we are invited by our Scriptures to think of an even greater festival of freedom: the liberty of the children of God. Indeed, both the Americans and ourselves need to link the ideas of freedom and justice into a single ideal of human integrity. To celebrate our freedom without having any care for social justice would be, in light of the Gospel, fundamentally warped and quite wrong.
As Amos sides firmly with the poor, untitled peasants in his day, victimized by kings and the clergy of the sanctuary, so in a later age did Jesus offer support to mentally disturbed people, ostracized and left to survive as best they could. Social sin is the primary sin of the world, both then and now. These injustices of society, far more than isolated personal failings, call out stern warnings from God.
Amos portrays God as indignantly rejecting sacred ceremonies, carried out by duly consecrated priests and with punctilious care for each rubric, while the nation turns a blind eye toward the suffering of the poor. The language is stark: “I hate, I spurn your feasts,.. I take no pleasure in your solemnities.” Matthew, while he tones down the commotion described by Mark, still shows Jesus as angered by the ill-treatment of mentally handicapped people as he calls aloud to the demons, “Out with you!”
The Bible does not seek to answer problems in detail, but goes to the heart of the matter, God’s concern for the underprivileged. It speaks to our inmost conscience, as the prophet Micah puts it, “You have been told, O man and woman, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Mic 6:8).
First Reading: Am 5:14-15, 21-24
Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said. Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll downlike waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.
Gospel: Matthew 8:28-34
When he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs coming out of the tomb met him. They were so fierce that no one could pass that way. Suddenly they shouted, “What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” Now a large herd of swine was feeding at some distance from them. The demons begged him, “If you cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.” And he said to them, “Go!” So they came out and entered the swine; and suddenly, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the water. The swineherds ran off, and on going into the town, they told the whole story about what had happened to the demoniacs. Then the whole town came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighbourhood.