I have spent the week with the Book of Amos in preparation for this Sunday’s Old Testament reading. For me, this sacred text is a reminder to be a seeker – a seeker of God’s call to conversion and new life. Amos, a minor prophet (minor not in terms of importance but due to the book’s short length) is a shepherd from the town of Tekoa in the southern kingdom of Judah. God calls him to travel to the northern kingdom of Israel to deliver the unpopular message of repentance during the reign of King Jeroboam. It is a time of relative peace and prosperity for the King, where their identity as “God’s the chosen people” is viewed more as a privilege than a moral responsibility. The rich and powerful satisfy themselves while the needs of the poor and disadvantaged are ignored – a time where they’ve been lulled into believing in their own abilities and strengths. They’ve lost their way but are unaware of this fact. We hear repeatedly, “Seek me and live!” (Amos 5:4,6,14) Put aside empty rituals and pilgrimages that have lost their undergirding in the search for God. Seek me! The religious leader , Amaziah’s reply is to call Amos a conspirator against the house of Israel. Within this context we hear Sunday’s reading:
“Amaziah, priest of Bethel, said to Amos, “Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah! There earn your bread by prophesying, but never again prophesy in Bethel; for it is the king’s sanctuary and a royal temple.” (Am 7:12)
I hear: Go back to where you belong and prophesy there. Leave us alone – we are doing fine – this is the home of the King and this is my temple! No mention of God in Amaziah’s words to Amos. It’s a human condition perhaps that when things go well – our minutes are not as peppered as they should be with prayer in strong contrast to times of distress. There is a lack of humility – the recognition that God is God and we are not. Saint Benedict writes in the Rule: “The first step of humility, then, is that a man keeps the fear of God always before his eyes (Ps 36.2) and never forgets it.” (RB 7.10) This fear is synonymous with awe and points to the proper relationship with our God. The search for God in their midst has been placed on hold. They have forgotten their history.
As I reflect on this book I do not find it far off from words that are needed today. We need reminders to Seek God – to put aside empty ways of passing our time. We need reminders to embody humility – to be teachable; open to listening for God’s words spoken into the challenges of our world. These are not easy.
Questions for Reflection: Do I seek God at all times? what would this look like concretely? Am I humble and not prideful before God?