We’re reading from the Prophet Amos this week at Mass. As he speaks to 8th century Israel his message is “one of unrelieved gloom,” one commentator says. Free from wars, Israel was far from gloomy. Its rich were getting richer and enjoying the “good life”, at the expense of the poor. The religious authorities said nothing. The only voice raised was the voice of a poor, uneducated farmer who cultivated figs, Amos.
Amos spoke for God: “I hate, I spurn your feasts…I take no pleasure in your solemnities…Away with your noisy songs! I will not listen to the melodies of your harps.” Destruction awaited a people unconcerned about the poor.
Still, God offers mercy to his people as we hear on Saturday in one of Amos’ most beautiful passages, echoes of which inspired Martin Luther KIng’s “I Have a Dream” speech:
“On that day I will raise up
the fallen hut of David;
I will wall up its breaches,
raise up its ruins,
and rebuild it as in the days of old…
Yes, days are coming,
says the LORD,
When the plowman shall overtake the reaper,
and the vintager, him who sows the seed;
The juice of grapes shall drip down the mountains,
and all the hills shall run with it.
I will bring about the restoration of my people Israel;
they shall rebuild and inhabit their ruined cities,
Plant vineyards and drink the wine,
set out gardens and eat the fruits.
I will plant them upon their own ground;
never again shall they be plucked
From the land I have given them,
say I, the LORD, your God.” (Amos 9,11-15)
A beautiful definition of mercy. God comes to humanity at its worst, in its sham, its blindness, its evil, and raises it up again. Mercy does not depend on merit. It’s God loving us in spite of ourselves.
We see mercy best as it’s exemplified in the Passion of Jesus. In spite of hypocrisy and injustice, God offers his love to heedless humanity and the promise of a kingdom.
Have mercy on us, O Lord.