Monday, September 14, 2009
“The message of Amos is direct and uncompromising. Over and over he announces to the people of Israel that, because of their social injustice and religious arrogance, the Lord will punish them by means of a total military disaster . . . He is not introducing any new moral or legal expectations, but simply holding the people accountable for their transgressions”. (Meeks 1356-1357)
Accountability is often seen as a limitation, a rubric we skirt; we hope to do what we like, when we like, as we like. But what we are truly avoiding when we act as if there is no accounting of our actions is responsibility to ourselves and to the rest of society to bring into fruition the hopes God implants in us. We walk away from a great gift and a great promise.
Sunday’s first and second readings speak to our spiritual accountability. Isaiah foreshadows the servant leadership of Jesus in 50:4: The Lord God opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting. The Psalm 116 antiphon intones our intent to obey God at all times: I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living. And the letter from James asks us: What good is it . . . if someone says he has faith but does not have works?
All of this brings us back to Amos who does not argue; he merely states the case that the people of his time have turned their backs on God and are living in religious arrogance. He sees that they have forfeited the opportunity to know God and to know themselves in an intensely intimate way . . . through the vulnerability of suffering, through solidarity with the marginalized, and through a focused intentionality in living. What we intend is what we ought to do. What we believe ought to be present in how we act. And how we love ought to be evident in how we interact with God’s people and all of his creation each day.
Today’s reading is full of oracles predicting that doom will fall upon a people who look out for themselves first and others last. We might use this as a measuring stick for ourselves to see how we feel about our own accountability for the part we are asked to play in God’s plan. Do we see our existence as an opportunity to join God as he sees to the welfare of society as a whole? Or do we see accountability as an infringement on our personal freedom. We can each examine our words and thoughts and deeds to determine where we stand in God’s plan . . . and to determine if we wish to continue as we have begun.
Meeks, Wayne A., Gen. Ed. HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE (NRSV). New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989. Print.