We’re reading from the Prophet Amos all this week at Mass. His message is “one of unrelieved gloom,” one commentator says, as he speaks to the prosperous world of his day, especially 8th century Israel, the northern kingdom.
God doesn’t like anything about it: “I hate, I spurn your feasts…I take no pleasure in your solemnities…Away with your noisy songs! I will not listen to the melodies of your harps.”
God can’t stand the songs they’re singing, the music they’re playing, their beautiful liturgies, because they show no justice towards the poor. So destruction awaits them.
But wait! This Saturday we’ll hear God turning in mercy to his people in one of Amos’ most beautiful passages:
“On that day I will raise up
the fallen hut of David;
I will wall up its breaches,
raise up its ruins,
and rebuild it as in the days of old…
Yes, days are coming,
says the LORD,
When the plowman shall overtake the reaper,
and the vintager, him who sows the seed;
The juice of grapes shall drip down the mountains,
and all the hills shall run with it.
I will bring about the restoration of my people Israel;
they shall rebuild and inhabit their ruined cities,
Plant vineyards and drink the wine,
set out gardens and eat the fruits.
I will plant them upon their own ground;
never again shall they be plucked
From the land I have given them,
say I, the LORD, your God.” (Amos 9,11-15)
There’s a definition of mercy in the prophet’s words. In mercy God comes down to humanity at its worst, in its sham, its blindness, its evil, and raises it up again. Mercy does not depend on merit. It’s God loving us in spite of ourselves.
We see mercy best as it’s exemplified in the Passion of Jesus. In spite of hypocrisy and injustice, God offers his love to heedless humanity and the promise of a kingdom.
Have mercy on us, O Lord.