Last week we had two significant readings from the second book of Kings. On Tuesday we heard how the Assyrians marched against Israel destroying the northern areas but were turned back shortly after getting to Jerusalem. Then on Thursday our first reading retold the story of the Babylonian captivity which led to the exile. These two events, the first in 722 B.C.E. and the second in 587 B.C.E. made an enormous impact on the collective mind of the people. No one likes to be reminded of painful events in their life, nor do we like it when people begin to predict them. The more we understand the seriousness of these two events the better we can understand the deep rootedness the religious leaders had in the days of Jesus.
Amos, a prophet of the northern kingdom, speaks to us in today’s first reading about these events before they happened. And for his prophecy he receives mockery, and scorn. It seems no one wants to hear or listen to the doom impending upon Israel. His prophecy certainly comes true over the next 200 years. In all truthfulness, Amaziah, the priest of Bethel who rejected Amos, won’t live long enough to see it. As I think about this, I notice the same is true for us. We sure are quick to dismiss or criticize bad news when things are going well, yet look how quickly we welcome good news when things are going poorly.
Matthew’s gospel has similar voices. In his desire to heal the man on the stretcher, Jesus needed to confront the voices which diminish and discourage. Yet Matthew says Jesus caught sight of the faith of the people who carried the paralytic to him. It was their faith which allowed Jesus to speak words of forgiveness. At some point Jesus chooses the motivation of the man’s friends over the discouragement of the scribes. The scribes claim he is blaspheming. They could only focus on and hear that which disagreed with their theology. But what else can you say when the man who previously could not walk gets up and walks out of a gathering of people? The criticizing scribes are silenced and the crowd glorifies God.
The opening prayer of this week, Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary time says that God chose us to be children of light. It goes on to ask God that we "may NOT be wrapped in darkness of error but always be seen to stand in the bright light of truth".
Fr. David Colhour, C.P. is the pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Louisville, Kentucky.