Reflection on the Sunday Scriptures

On this Sunday as well as in the next, the praying assembly will be in the company of the Prophet Amos. Amos is one of those reluctant prophets who are inspired and called to be the voice of Yawheh to the people of Israel in the VII Century before the coming of Jesus. It was tough then as it is now to be a prophet, to be the mouthpiece of this God who issues messages to the people of God in order to preserve their identity as a monotheistic religion and not fall into the idolatries of the pagans around them. Not many people, then and now, were willing to pay attention to that voice. And as a result many were persecuted and exiled from the lands. Many were killed. Amos calls himself a prophet of the Lord and he defends himself against detractors saying he was just "a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores". But he was obedient to the voice of the Lord and followed that divine vocation.

Amos does not have the thundering voice of the great prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel or Daniel. He simply was an obedient visionary fulfilling the command of the Lord and inviting the people of Israel to be faithful. He had many visions and put those visions down in great
imagery. He was a prophet of judgment and the message of forgiveness and hope was left to
other prophets, like his contemporary Hosea. But all in all he speaks of the moral code of
Yahweh that needed to he heard and implemented in the daily lives of Israelites.

Still he clamors against those who unjustly take advantage of others, those who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor. Those well to do have great and high dreams about
buying and selling, about amassing great fortunes when the harvest comes. The plan is to cut short on the measures due to the poor who are always shortchanged and have no ability to make their injustices known. But Amos says: "The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob. Never will I forget a thing they have done" (Amos 4: 7).

Amos and the Lucas' Jesus from today's Gospel ( Luke 16: 1-11) will invite us to consider the moral challenge of having and making money as well as the moral imperative to share the goods of this world with the poor. Make no mistake however in thinking that both Amos and Lucas are just calling upon the HAVES to take pity on the HAVE NOTS. Change will come not just with the charity, big or small, that we give to those in need. That is good. But change is
effected when the structures of injustice are faced radically so that the endemic problem of
exploitation and the abyss between haves and have nots is diminished from year to year, or from generation to generation. It is the same lesson for next Sunday, with the Parable of Jesus about the rich man and the poor man, Lazarus, at his door. Both these Sundays speak loudly to the listeners of ancient times and our times, of both charity and justice.

Fortunately, something of the passion of the Prophets has been kept alive in the hearts and voices of those individuals who continue to speak for the voiceless and defend the right of the defenseless. And I am aware the first defenseless person is the child in the womb of her mother. We can start with that and then follow up and continue with the lives of others who also need to be defended as others trample upon their rights, just because they are different, or they look different, or they do not have the right address, or even the right papers. We all have heard many stories of exploitation, even of sexual exploitation, attacking the vulnerability of those who are trying to carve a better future for themselves and for their families.

We pray and sing many times in our worship services Psalm 34: "The Lord hears the cry of the poor". It befits us to act responsibly, charitably and justly. We have great examples in our Catholic Tradition of these great prophets who mark for us the path to follow: Peter Claver, Mother Theresa of Calcutta, Dorothy Day, and many of our missionaries who give up their lives, like the two nuns, nurses themselves and working as such robbed and killed in rural Georgia last week, giving their lives and dedicating their entire lives to lift up the lives of
others, the poor, and to give them hope for their future and the future of their families. I am sure you could name many more. I was doing the piece along these same lines for next Sunday and mentioned also the name of Mark and Louise Swick, who have staffed Casa Juan Diego here in Houston for 50 years to help the refugees who come our way fleeing oppression,
violence, political persecution, and yes, extreme poverty. You might be tempted to do the same if you find yourselves in abject poverty. Again, charity and justice are the change of structures and models of society that need to be addressed.

I do not wish to bypass the ministry of The St. Vincent de Paul Conferences, here and in other parishes, addressing the needs of the poor, offering what we can, in charity and hope the structures may change, so that the endemic problem of poverty is resolved.

The lesson of the parable of the manager in Luke's Gospel today is one that should hit home. We are all administrators of lives and resources. Many of us are blessed with material goods and even wealth. The proper use of what we have goes along with the virtue of charity, justice, forgiveness and MAGNANIMITY. That is a big word which simply describes a person who has A BIG ANIMA, a large soul. Any gift or blessing shared sure will open the door of the mercy of God upon us, the mercy that will be open to rich and poor alike

May you be blessed with the richness of God's Peace

—Fr. Vicente