Introduction to the book of Amos
Amos was a sheep breeder of Tekoa in Judah, who delivered his oracles in the Northern Kingdom during the prosperous reign of Jeroboam II (786–746 B.C.). He prophesied in Israel at the great cult center of Bethel, from which he was finally expelled by the priest in charge of this royal sanctuary. The poetry of Amos, who denounces the hollow prosperity of the Northern Kingdom, is filled with imagery and language taken from his own pastoral background. The book is an anthology of his oracles and was compiled either by the prophet or by some of his disciples. The prophecy begins with a sweeping indictment of Damascus, Philistia, Tyre, and Edom; but the forthright herdsman saves his climactic denunciation for Israel, whose injustice and idolatry are sins against the light granted to her. Israel could indeed expect the day of the Lord, but it would be a day of darkness and not light. When Amos prophesied the overthrow of the sanctuary, the fall of the royal house, and the captivity of the people, it was more than Israelite officialdom could bear. The priest of Bethel drove Amos from the shrine—but not before hearing a terrible sentence pronounced upon himself. Amos is a prophet of divine judgment, and the sovereignty of the Lord in nature and history dominates his thought. But he was no innovator; his conservatism was in keeping with the whole prophetic tradition calling the people back to the high moral and religious demands of the Lord’s revelation. Amos’s message stands as one of the most powerful voices ever to challenge hypocrisy and injustice. He boldly indicts kings, priests, and leaders. He stresses the importance and the divine origin of the prophetic word; one must either heed that word in its entirety or suffer its disappearance. Religion without justice is an affront to the God of Israel and, far from appeasing God, can only provoke divine wrath. The Lord is not some petty national god but the sovereign creator of the cosmos. Amos alludes to historical forces at work through which God would exercise judgment on Israel. Several times he mentions deportation as the fate that awaits the people and their corrupt leaders, a standard tactic of Assyrian foreign policy during this period. Through the prophetic word and various natural disasters, the Lord has tried to bring Israel to repentance, but to no avail. Israel’s rebelliousness has exhausted the divine patience and the destruction of Israel as a nation and as God’s people is inevitable. As it is presented in this book, Amos’s message is one of almost unrelieved gloom. A later appendix, however, ends the book on a hopeful note, looking beyond the judgment that had already taken place in fulfillment of Amos’s word.
JUNE 23 Tuesday in the Octave of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
ST. JOHN’S EVE-WIDOWS DAY
Amos, Chapter 3, Verse 8
The lion has roared, who would not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken, who would not prophesy?
The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. In green pastures he makes me lie down; to still waters he leads me; he restores my soul. He guides me along right paths for the sake of his name. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me. You set a table before me in front of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the LORD for endless days.
St. John Bonfires
St. John’s bonfire is traditionally lit on the night before the Feast. The mood surrounding this solemn vigil is merry, since the day was regarded as a sort of summer Christmas. The Roman ritual even includes a special benedictio rogi, or blessing of the bonfire, for the birthday of the Baptist:
Lord God, Father almighty, unfailing Light who is the Source of all light: sanctify this new fire, and grant that after the darkness of this life we may be able to come with pure minds to Thee who art Light unfailing. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Domine Deus, Pater omnipotens,
lumen indeficiens, qui es conditor omnium luminum: novum hunc ignem sanctifica,
et praesta: ut ad te, qui es lumen indeficiens, puris mentibus post hujus
saeculi caliginem pervenire valeamus. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
The bonfire, incidentally, is an excellent symbol for John, the untamed prophet who lived outside the city both literally and figuratively. It also makes an interesting contrast with the Paschal candle. On Easter vigil, a similarly "wild" fire representing Christ is made outside and is used to light the Paschal candle, which is then carried into the church. Significantly, in the Exultet the deacon praises this candle as the product of a beehive, symbol of a virtuous and harmonious city. The idea seems to be that Christ is also an outsider, though he succeeds through his death and resurrection in bringing the light of truth into the very citadel of darkness. On the other hand, John, who never lived to see Christ's triumph, can only bear witness to the light from the outside.
Things to Do
· St. John's Birth marks the summer solstice. On the eve of this feast many countries have celebrated with bonfires. This is especially true in Ireland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. See the list of suggested activities to read more about this tradition.
· Read about St. John's Eve particularly in Ireland (note the link is a secular website).
· From the Germanic countries, here is some information on the Summer Solstice.
International Widows’ Day
International Widows' Day
serves to recognize widows and their unique situations worldwide. Widows are
women whose husbands have died. After their husbands have passed, many widows
are forced to fight for their human rights and overcome many obstacles to
ensure their social and economic development. It is estimated that there are
over 245 million widows worldwide, nearly half of which live in extreme poverty
and are subject to cruel violence.
International Widows' Day was declared by the United Nations and first celebrated on June 23, 2011 in an effort to empower widows and help them to regain their rights, which have long been ignored and violated.
Today do something to help a widow or single parent. Check out www.flyingscarfs.com
· Do not ask everyone’s opinion, but only the opinion of your confessor; be as frank and simple as a child with him.