Saturday, July 05, 2014

Bring About the Restoration

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.  Amos 9:13-14

No one patches an old cloak with a piece of unshrunken cloth, for its fullness pulls away from the cloak and the tear gets worse.  People do not put new wine into old wineskins.  Otherwise the skins burst, the wine spills out, and the skins are ruined.  Rather, they pour new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.”  Matthew 9:16-17

I will listen for what God, the LORD, has to say; surely he will speak of peace to his people and to his faithful.  May they not turn to foolishness!  Near indeed is his salvation for those who fear him; glory will dwell in our land.  Love and truth will meet; justice and peace will kiss.  (Psalm 85:9-11)

How things change when people follow the Lord and do not reject His ways.  

Earlier in the book of Amos, the prophet explained that the people would be cursed for their crimes and sins against justice: Therefore, because you tax the destitute and exact from them levies of grain, Though you have built houses of hewn stone, you shall not live in them; Though you have planted choice vineyards, you shall not drink their wine.  (Amos 5:11)

Obedience and humility are rewarded as we read in today’s first passage from the Hebrew Bible.  The same actions result in very different outcomes when the new orders are followed. Destruction is not the Lord’s final command.  Rather justice and peace will kiss.  The Lord’s mercy is enduring and plentiful despite what we do.  Those who follow will have abundance (dripping with new wine) while those who do not will know famine and thirst.  “The Lord speaks of peace to his people” (Psalm 85) not gloom and doom.

In exchange for this reward, Jesus is not looking for sacrifice but for action:  treating the poor and powerless with generosity and protection.  Fasting, while a worthy practice, is not the only worthy practice.  There is a time for action, a time to “go in peace to love and serve the world.”  The notes to the New American Bible point out that: “Fasting is a sign of mourning and would be as inappropriate at this time of joy, when Jesus is proclaiming the kingdom, as it would be at a marriage feast. Yet the saying looks forward to the time when Jesus will no longer be with the disciples visibly, the time of Matthew’s church.”

Jesus is not just patching up what is lacking in the old faith to restore it to newness.  Jesus is, in fact, establishing a new order that is open and welcoming to all.  Hos new wine would burst the old wine skins of the Hebrew church.  Therefore, Jesus introduces us to ways to dwell with Him in newness as He dwells within us.

Reading today’s Psalm, I hear it echo as the Mass is celebrated along the U.S. Mexico border.  Angry mobs are turning away busses of unaccompanied children who tried to flee violence and oppression in their homeland for the promise of plenty in the United States. 

They hear and read the same Good News as we do.  That message preaches restoration and fulfillment.

If we listen for what God calls on us to do, we might hear the message that we are a people of hospitality, not hosptility.  Even as the government processes the undocumented immigrants to return them home, how can we live up to the ideals and actions toward these poor and destitute children and families?

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