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Updated: Jan 22, 2023

In this Sunday’s 1st reading (Amos 8:4-7) we hear from Amos, a blue-collar lay preacher who the elites of his time saw as an unwelcome outsider because he was brutal in his criticism of the business practices and elite structures of his time. At the time of Amos, money and wealth were considered rewards from God for living a righteous life. So making money, at all cost, was at the forefront of the behavior of merchants and traders. Amos, therefore, took them on. He described how the business men and traders flaunted their wealth, mistreated the poor and marginalized, exploited the vulnerable, falsified weights and measures to maximize gains and extort consumers, and how the religious leaders pronounced God’s blessing on these practices and how God has vowed not to let this go unpunished.

He also charged them with hypocrisy. You see, by Jewish law, no work and trading was allowed on the Sabbath day as commanded by God. So, these merchants saw the Sabbath day as a hindrance to their business and trade. They, therefore, couldn’t wait for the Sabbath to be over so that they could return to what they considered to be more important—figuring out more ways to exploit the poor and the marginalized. In essence, the Sabbath had become a worship of lip service with the heart far away from God; a façade aimed at doing the least one can to do to be considered a good and honest person, a friend of God for publicity sake and public relations, a lip service to the standards and practices of religion while despising it in the business world. This type of practice produces, in my opinion, a new religiosity, with “Me” as the chief god of it: a separation of Sunday from the rest of the week.

The problem is that this type of separation of spirituality from social life can very easily degenerate into taking lightly the all-important task of being mindful of the day of reckoning. We can easily talk ourselves into pushing this accountability stuff aside and postponing it to some other day, not now. But fortunately, the words of Amos remind us that such an attitude is a recipe for disaster because the day of reckoning cannot be controlled, cannot be bribed to come back later, and cannot be avoided.

My friends, we should never take for granted the words of Scripture where it says, “And I shall come back to judge the living and the dead”. If we are not ready to do right by pursuing a life of justice and love, then, let us do right, at least, for the fear of reprisal and eternal punishment. It is better to live right and find out, on the last day, that there is no judgment than to live life on the wrong side of morality only to find out, at the end, that there is judgment, but now there is no opportunity to make amends. There is a proverb that says, “A dear that is killed by a roaring lion was killed by deafness”. May we never be counted among those who are lost because of our deafness to the Word of God!

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