26 Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 29, 2019
This is the second Sunday in a row that the Old Testament Reading was taken from the writings of the Prophet Amos. Amos, of course, is the voice of social justice. As exciting and moving as his writings might well be, when we read them, or even hear them proclaimed during the liturgy, we simply do not “feel the heat” that must have radiated from him as he spoke live to his ancient audiences. This past Monday, a meeting held at the United Nations offered an opportunity of experiencing what it might have been like to hear Amos in person.
Repeatedly punctuating her brief but blistering remarks with the question: How dare you! A teenager from Sweden spoke passionately about environmental concerns.
People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!
You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency, but no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil, and that, I refuse to believe.
Although her “issue” is global warming and climate change, hardly a matter of concern to Amos, the link between the young woman’s speech and this Sunday’s Readings is the proper and righteous response to human suffering…especially by the most privileged.
Certainly her “issue” is a matter of debate that has become highly politicized. The young woman’s motives, emotional state, and even sanity have been questioned. It is quite likely that the same held true so many centuries ago when Amos called the wealthy and privileged to task. Jesus is the very best example of the way prophets are treated…especially by those who feel targeted or challenged.
The excerpts from the UN address seem to echo Amos’s indictment of those who ignore opportunities to relieve human suffering. Although the remarks are prophetic in tone, it would not be fitting to place the young woman on the same level as Amos. But it would likewise be very ill advised to completely dismiss her…or ignore her…or ridicule her. There is no authentic challenge to her point that: People are suffering. People are dying. And is there truth to her point that there are others who have the power and resources to, at a minimum, ease that suffering. There is very credible evidence that the gap between the so called 1% and the rest of humanity is widening dramatically. But, it can be bridged with the mere stroke of a pen. Charity is all that is required.
However, in the Kingdom of God, there is no way to bridge the “great chasm” that separates those who have suffered in this life and those who appear to be oblivious to the misfortune of others. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus seems to be setting an even higher standard. If you really are so self- absorbed and self-indulgent that you are totally oblivious to the distress of your sisters and brothers…HOW DARE YOU! You will be treated like you were evil.