Take Heart; Thursday in the Thirteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Image: Grave of the Old Prophet of Snare Lake, near Wekweeti
Amos 7.10-17 | Psalm 19 | Matthew 9.1-8

King Jeroboam, who is mentioned in today’s first reading, was the fourteenth ruler of the northern kingdom of Israel and his reign lasted for more than four decades. Under his direction Israel was relatively peaceful and prosperous allowing for a ruling elite to rise up and for a wide gulf to form between those who had access to privilege and power and those who did not. For this reason as well as for the restoration of pagan idols to places of worship the ire of the prophets was stirred. Amos was one of the first to raise his voice in protest.

As Amaziah, the king’s messenger, brings word of the prophet Amos’ latest complaints against the king, we can see the defiance of Jeroboam in the words that are returned. Amos is accused of being a prophet for hire, one who would sell his allegiance and change his tune if the price was right. But Amos holds fast to his words saying, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son…the Lord said to me , ‘Go prophesy to my people Israel’ “. Amos makes clear that the words against the king are not his own but come directly from God and those words are scathing.

Our gospel reading takes a very different tone. We find Jesus encountering a man who is paralyzed and completely dependent on others. Without being asked anything, but somehow knowing the faith in their hearts, Jesus says, “Take heart, your sins are forgiven”, and almost seemingly as an afterthought, and in spite of the scribes who are watching his every move, heals the man’s paralyses and tells him to stand up and walk again.

A Redemptorist brother that I once lived with in community, spent part of every day reading his bible by the light of the afternoon sun. At supper one night he offered the following question as a conversation starter. “Do you think there might be two Gods? One who is vengeful and ready to condemn us, and another who is merciful and full of compassion?” He was not confused, he just liked to have good table conversations. It is an interesting question but perhaps one which focuses to much on God’s actions and not enough on how the people in those alternative situations responded to God’s invitation to conversion.

The prophets did not put their necks on the line for their own sake but through their preaching brought messages of warning to the community and its leaders that things were going off the rails. Amos wanted the King to know that if he kept on the course he had set, things were going to go badly in the long run. Jeroboam chose not to listen to Amos’ warnings, he simply carried on and later paid a great price. The man who was paralyzed was a very different character. He was humbled, he was vulnerable, he knew that his only hope was to be found in the healer that stood before him. His heart was ready and able to receive God’s mercy and healing.

So, two very different outcomes, but not two different Gods. Simply two different people who were either prepared to receive the gift of God’s mercy or not.

In the Psalm we read, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple.” God loves us the way a parent loves their children which necessarily includes guidance and correction. The child which does not get what it wants might feel unduly punished but with maturity they come to see the wisdom of their parent’s actions.

Take heart and listen to the voices of wisdom around you. Look for the prophets in your midst. Let them lead you on the right path towards fullness of life and abundant joy.