13th Week, Wednesday, Jul 1

Amos 5:14-15, 21-24 / Matthew 8:28-34 
Take your sacrifices away: “It is justice that I want from you.”

The God of Amos was a God of concern for the poor. He scorned those Israelites who came to offer sacrifice on religious feasts but trampled on the poor the rest of the year. God said of these people: “I hate your religious festivals; I cannot stand them! . . .Instead, let justice flow like a stream, and righteousness like a river that never goes dry.” Amos 5:21,24
 Jesus fleshed out the God of Amos in New Testament times. Speaking to those who ignore the poor, he said: “Away from me. I was hungry but you would not feed me, thirsty but you would not give me a drink.” Matthew 25:41-42
What is our attitude toward the poor? “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.” John F. Kennedy
In the gospel, we heard of demoniacs. Not just one but two. And the gospel passage described them as creatures so fierce that no one could pass that way. Probably not just fierce but more frightening and since there were two of them, that makes them look like a double-barrel shotgun. Why or how they became demoniacs, the gospel did not say. Yet they were still described as creatures.

In other words, they were created by God and created to be good, but something went terribly wrong along the way, and evil took hold of them. Yet Jesus came to cast off the evil from them and restored them to their original created state. That is the power that God has over evil, and evil can never overcome God.

But the more sinister and cunning evil is the widespread injustice and corruption which is so often overlooked and even taken for granted. Injustice and corruption are like camouflaged evil and can even seep and infiltrate into our faith and make us ignore our moral obligations of justice and integrity.

Yes, the words of the Lord in the 1st reading must shock us. The Lord says this: I hate and despise your feasts, I take no pleasure in your solemn festivals, I reject your oblations, and refuse to look at your sacrifices of fattened cattle.

May these words of the Lord cast out the evil from our hearts and instil in us justice and integrity, so that we will offer to the Lord a worthy sacrifice of ourselves.

Wednesday July 1 
Wednesday of 13th Week of Ordinary Time 

 In strong terms, Amos scolds the people that their rituals, their liturgies, are worthless if they do not honor God by practicing justice. Jesus takes pity on people considered possessed by the devil, outcasts of little value to their pagan fellow citizens, who are more concerned about the loss of their pigs than over the cure of these outcasts. This text is difficult to understand unless we pay attention to the underlying theme of impurity. The outcasts from whom Jesus will exorcise demons live in an impure place, a cemetery; the demons are driven out into pigs, unclean animals for the Jews. The pagans of the region do not yet recognize Jesus and this seems to indicate that the story is symbolic of times still to come: evil is still rampant. But in any case the power of Jesus is already working. 

Opening Prayer 
Lord our God, Your Son Jesus Christ took pity on people rejected by their society and restored them as human beings. Never allow us to judge anyone and to reject people from our communities. Make us leave the judgment to you for you alone know what is going on in the hearts of people. Make us mild and compassionate through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Jesus’ expulsion of the demons from the possessed Gadarenes takes an unusual twist. The unclean pigs become the recipients of the demons and then charge into the sea. Evil deserves no better treatment. Amos exhorts his people to seek good and avoid evil in order to assure a blessed future. Only when justice is at the gate will God look favorably and have pity on them. It is useless to spend time on observances. Feasts and offerings have no value if life is not correct before God. Music and song will not succeed in tempering God’s wrath. These are things that will have value when justice pours forth like water and goodness like a constant stream. Liturgical planning is an important part in parish life today, and with good reason. We do not want the sacred to be treated irreverently. But liturgy must always be one part of a lived and conscious expression of our Christian faith. To emphasize only the beauty of our rituals and hymns, while neglecting to witness God in our everyday behavior, is to lose sight of the forest for the trees. 

Points to Ponder 
Desisting from evil
Liturgy and faith
Music: something beautiful for God 

– For the Church, that like our God, it may care for those who are least favored and least loved, so that the gospel may be good news to them, we pray:
– For governments and public officials, that they may not tolerate favoritism or discrimination of any kind and that they may defend the oppressed and restore their rights, we pray:
– For those considered outcasts by “respectable” society, that we may not judge them, but that our goodness, respect and understanding may help them to integrate themselves in our communities, we pray: 

Prayer over the Gifts 
Lord, loving God, your Son Jesus died on the cross as an outcast deserted by his people, but that was the way in which he saved us. Let this offering of bread and wine express that we are one with Jesus and that with him we accept people the way you accept them and want to save them. We ask this through Christ our Lord. 

Prayer after Communion 
God, our Father, you have let us share the table of your Son and let us join him in giving praise and thanks to you. By his power we want to continue giving you honor and thanks with the whole of our everyday lives through deeds of justice, love and endless compassion for people who lose their struggle with the difficulties of life. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

“Let justice flow like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” If we can be just and good, the Lord will listen to us and accept our offering, for then it will be part of the sacrifice of Jesus. May God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.