Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator
Throughout the past week, we have been reading from the prophet Amos, one of the twelve "minor" prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures. We call them "minor" because their contribution to the Hebrew Scriptures is rather short in comparison to the "major" prophets. We have traversed the Book of the Prophet Amos in just one week. However, though this book is rather short, it is not unimportant. Amos is particularly important because he focuses our attention on the two great sins of the nation of Israel; namely, their turning to false gods and their treatment of the poor in their midst. Amos claims that it is these two sins which have led to the exile or Babylonian captivity.
Like most of the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures, Amos is not all doom and gloom. Today's reading from the later chapters of his book speaks of restoration. The throne of Israel will once again bear a king in the line of David. Using imagery that springs from the agricultural nature of Israel, Amos paints a picture of rebuilding and new growth. Once again, Israel will become God's cherished orchard.
At the same time we are reminded by the Gospel of Matthew that Jesus claimed to be something totally new. While he is the fulfillment of the prophets' promises to place a descendant of David on the throne, he is not like any of the kings of Israel. Even those who have maintained a right relationship with God were not expecting the kind of Messiah that Jesus was. Today the followers of John the Baptist question him and learn that he does not fit into their old molds or images of God. He is the new wineskin that cannot simply conform to the way things used to be.
New things can be uncomfortable. However, unless we constantly look for new ways to bring the message of the Gospel to bear on our world, we will find ourselves in much the same situation as the people of old. While the old ways might be more comfortable, they are also less challenging and allow us to remain tepid in our enthusiasm for the Gospel. Renewal, restoration, and new growth might be uncomfortable, but they are essential parts of our spiritual growth.