4th July. Friday, Week 13.
Saint Elisabeth of Portugal.
Elizabeth (Isabel) of Aragon (1271-1336) became wife of King Denis of Portugal, with whom she had a son and a daughter. During her time as queen she was often an effective conciliator between opposing factions. Elizabeth was a very devout believer and after king Denis’ death (1325), she retired to the monastery of the Poor Clare nuns, joined the Third Order of Saint Francis and devoted the rest of her life to serving the poor and sick in obscurity. She was beatified in 1526 and canonized in 1625.
First Reading: Amos 8:4-6, 9-12
Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land, saying, “When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the Sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances, buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat.”
On that day, says the Lord God, I will make the sun go down at noon, and darken the earth in broad daylight. I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on all loins, and baldness on every head; I will make it like the mourning for an only son, and the end of it like a bitter day.
The time is surely coming, says the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.
Gospel: Matthew 9:9-13
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”
Opting for a New Deal
Now here’s a thought for Independence Day, when not only the United States but people worldwide think about the benefits of democracy and justice in the way we organise our society. A zealous prophet declares that the society in which he lives has no future but destruction. Due to their obstinate social injustice they will suffer a famine for the word of God, a complete break with basic biblical hope in God’s inspiring word. In the gospel Jesus flashes one of the first signals that God’s kingdom would reach beyond Palestine and extend to distant lands at the end of the earth. Jesus calls a non-observant Jew, the tax-collector, Matthew, to be an apostle. Everyone, even foreigners, can be saved. The Scriptures may not give us detailed directives, but they provide the basis for all moral choices: changes such as these are within the providence of God. The purpose of religion is to unite us with God continually during all the transitions of our lives.
Amos announces a looming crisis for Israel: for their lack of social concern, the people will be driven from the land of promise. Active compassion is also the heart of how a despised tax collector, Matthew, is called to be one of Jesus’ inner circle. Jesus does not draw the application, yet his eating with those who disregarded the law provides a reason for the later church to reach out beyond Judaism and the narrow circle of those who know and keep the law. To paraphrase Amos, the gospel was to move “from sea to sea.. from the north to the east in search of the word of the Lord.”
How to deal with change in our lives? First, to accept it as the will of God and not demand to go back; second, to adapt with concern for the wider family; and always to practice justice towards the needy and compassion to any who are outcast.