Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Let Justice and Mercy Prevail

Let Justiceand Mercy Prevail

July 4, 2012
Wednesday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

By Colleen O’Sullivan

Then let justice surge like water, and goodness like an unfailing stream. (Amos 5:24)

When Jesus came to the territory of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs who were coming from the tombs met him.  They were so savage that no one could travel by that road.  They cried out, “What have you to do with us, Son of God?  Have you come here to torment us before the appointed time?”  Some distance away a herd of many swine was feeding.  The demons pleaded with him, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of swine.”  And he said to them, “Go then!”  They came out and entered the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea where they drowned.  The swineherds ran away, and when they came to the town they reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs.  Thereupon the whole town came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him they begged him to leave their district.  (Matthew 8:28-34)


The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, saves those whose spirit is crushed.
(Psalm 34:19)


Each of our Scripture readings today focus on people who are more self-centered than God-centered.  The prophet Amos addresses the “remnant of Joseph,” those few descendants of Joseph left in the Northern Kingdom.   He counsels them to seek good, not evil.  Amos tells them that the Lord is tired of their empty religious practices, their grain and animal sacrifices, and their noisy singing.  God says, if they really want to make an offering, let it be one of justice. 

Many of us can readily identify with the people the prophet is addressing.  It’s relatively easy to show up at Mass on Sundays and holy days.  We can say the words to the prayers along with everyone else.  We can sing all the songs to the Lord.  It’s not that difficult to write a check and stick it in an offering envelope or sign up for on-line parish giving.  Then we can sit back and say we’ve done everything we need to do.  We’ve fulfilled our obligations; God must be pleased with us.

But God says, I want more than that from you.  I’m not interested in warm bodies in the pews and empty rituals.  True, I want you to do all those things, but do them with all your heart.  Don’t just act as though you’re ticking off items on a checklist.  And more than anything, I ask you to act with justice.  The poor and needy, the unemployed are all around you in northern Virginia.  The sick, the dying, the imprisoned – they need you.  You don’t necessarily have to look far or take on a huge project; maybe someone in your own family needs a word of kindness or mercy.  But it can’t just be all about you.  You have to reach out beyond your self-interests.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus encounters two outcasts.  They are possessed by demons and have such a reputation for violent behavior that no one wants to travel the road near the tombs where they reside.  Jesus takes pity on their plight and casts out their demons.  The demons then enter a herd of pigs and cause the entire herd to run over the edge of a cliff.

When the townsfolk are alerted by the swineherds, they come after Jesus.  They don’t have an ounce of compassion in them for the disordered, sad, lonely lives these men were living.  They don’t rejoice that they have been healed.  They don’t even give them a second glance.  They are completely centered on themselves.  All they can see is the money lost when the pigs went over the cliff and died.  They tell Jesus to get away from the area.  Leave them alone. 

God made a covenant with Israel. I will be your God and you will be my people.  In the first reading, God reminds us that being God’s people isn’t just a “me and God” thing.  It includes caring about the needy and poor in God’s flock as well.   Funny, I went to CCD for 12 years and heard a great deal about all the sins I should avoid – missing Mass on a Sunday or holy day of obligation, eating meat on a Friday, lying, stealing, having sex outside of marriage, etc. – but, I don’t remember once hearing that failing to care for others, especially the most vulnerable in our world, could be a sin.  Yet throughout both the Old and New Testaments the need to care for the poor is a constant refrain.

It seems ironic that the demons in today’s Gospel reading are more impressed by Jesus than anyone else in the story.  Not only are the townspeople not impressed by the Lord or joyful that two horribly damaged people have been healed, they want nothing to do with Jesus.  He cost them money and that’s all they can see.  Life is all about them.


As I am writing this, we are experiencing the aftereffects of a devastating storm system.  Right in your neighborhood or in your office, there is probably someone who has no power, and thus no air conditioning or means of cooking.  If you have electricity, why not invite them to come over, cool off and share a meal.

Your parish bulletin or Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington, www.ccda.net/ are two other sources of ideas for ways in which you can help those in need in this area.

If you want to go further afield, Catholic Charities of Central Colorado, http://ccharitiescc.org/, is providing meals for evacuees from the wildfires in Colorado and could use monetary donations to help defray expenses.

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