Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Friday, February 10, 2006

Crimes Against Humanity

Daily Readings
Job 2 Genesis 38 Amos 1:1-2:5 Mark 8

Daily Text: Amos 1:1-2:5

Crimes Against Humanity
Amos’ date is marked by the natural disaster, the ‘Katrina’ of his day. ‘His’ disaster was an earthquake known to all in his era. Though most scholars are not willing to hazard a guess on the available evidence, the excavators of Hazor found traces of an earthquake which they dated around 760. This would place Amos at 762 B.C. well within the reign of Jereboam II, 786-746 B.C. [Mays, 480:20]. A herdsman of a particular kind of sheep, the animal is known for its ugliness, the wool for its beauty, Amos is thought of as a poor man. His father’s name is never mentioned.
In this first chapter the prophecy is placed as coming from a Judean, to Israel. Tekoa, ten miles south of Jerusalem is the place of Amos’ call, and Bethel, and perhaps Samaria, the places of his ministry. The first seven woes are against the surrounding nations and Judah. They each begin with the same formula “for three transgressions and for four,’ that is for a limitless number of transgressions, they are being called to account. Imagine Amos showing up on market day in Samaria and denouncing the sins of all of Israel’s enemies and rivals promising that YHWH would discipline them. “Oh, this brilliant boy, this remarkable Judean, lets tell our friends about this,” one can almost hear them say. And then he continues right on against Israel. “Now he’s gone to meddling! One should never mix religion and politics,” one can hear them say. And drive him out they did. In nobody’s age do the people want to hear criticism of themselves even when they are seen in the light of the unity of the world’s peoples. No. We always see ourselves as different, as a special case, as better. Such blindness, however, never fits within God’s economy.
Damascan charioteers have driven right over the downed bodies of their enemies from Israel in Gilead. Four of the five cities of Philistia have trafficked in selling a whole people into slavery. Tyre in addition to selling slaves has broken their covenant with a brother nation. Edom is guilty of a harassing cruelty against Judah after the exile; Ammon’s soldiers ripped open the bellies of pregnant women in an attempt to wipe out the next generation of Israelites. Moab desecrated the dead body of the king of Edom burning his bones until they were lime, and Judah has rejected the Torah. Some of these crimes are against humanity, others simply stick in the craw of Israel, and Judah is a theological failure. What a wonderful sermon! One might hear it in a State of the Union message and love every word of it.
Accountability for injustice is being visited upon the guilty.

Amos, The Prophet of Justice

Thomas Curtis Clark

For three sins, and a fourth, God’s wrath was stirred.
His chosen people wallowed in the dust;
They laughed at justice, served the gods of lust,
Oppressed the poor, and scorned his Holy Word.
But there was one who reverenced the good,
Who worshipped God and tried his will to do—
The herdsman Amos, simple, plain and true.
Said God: “Go say their sin is understood.
So Amos: “God, the mighty Lord of earth,
Hast known your sins and ye shall reap reward
For all your wrongs. A strong and cruel horde
Shall devastate your land. In bitter dearth
Ye shall abide, and from your homes shall go
To alien realms, a land of wrath and woe

Collect for the Day
Lord You called us
And trembling we armed ourselves
For a stony road
Grown over with thorns.
Bodies aflame
And blazing pyres
Were alight for our path.

And yet above the howls of thugs
In every age,
Above the screams of hate
And stones whistling murder,
We heard Your voice:
A voice men have stilled—
But not for ever.

Now You cry out to us
From the ovens.
Now Your secret is a whisper within us,
Too terrible to reveal.
Too many answers for a riddle
Too hard to solve.

This people Israel:
Our cries choked off by hangmen,
Every road to safety blocked,
Every light of rescue darkened…

And yet above the noise of many throats
Thirsty for our blood,
Your voice is heard—
A voice silenced by men and their deeds:
But not for ever.


Blogger Norm said...

Buber suggests the following scene: Jeroboam II (786-746BC) has finally conquered the Trans-Jordan area, thereby restoring the kingdom to its former boundaries (which has never again been reached). The people of Israel are assembled with diplomatic representatives from surrounding countries, priests and cult prophets. Perhaps they have come foreword and prophesied greatness for Israel. At this point, Amos arises from the congregation and says “Thus (meaning “on the contrary”) says YHWH”. He faces each foreign representative and delivers his devastating denunciation; embarrassment falls over Israelite officials, though it is mixed with secret mirth at hearing their one-time enemies scolded. (These nations are condemned not for disobedience to the Jewish law but for breaches of the natural laws of piety written in the heart and conscience of men). They expect Amos to stop his recitation of national sins before reaching Israel, but he declares a total holocaust for them.

9:16 AM  
Blogger Fr. James said...

Buber's visualization of this scene is quite graphic. Can you imagine what it must have taken for this rural Judean sheepherder to stand and make his charges?

I hadn't seen Buber's comments. Thank you for them.

1:32 PM  
Blogger Fr. James said...

Buber's visualization of this scene is quite graphic. Can you imagine what it must have taken for this rural Judean sheepherder to stand and make his charges?

I hadn't seen Buber's comments. Thank you for them.

1:33 PM  

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