How many times have you over-packed for a trip, taking much more than you actually needed only to discover that you did not use half of the provisions you took for your five-day trip? Many cannot part with the pleasures of life for a minute. A dear friend recently traded-in their Humvee for a fully air-conditioned one with built-in dishwasher, stereo, 65-inch color television, two queen-size beds, and a Jacuzzi; so whenever they go camping with the kids, they would take with them into the “wilderness” all the comforts of home. She argued that she deserves that because she has worked hard to earn the money. In fact, she is entitled to that because she hails from the U.S., the richest nation on earth, making up 6% of the world’s population but consuming 50% of the earth’s resources. I said “Bravo” to her but referred her to Pope Francis’ Encyclical “Laudato Si.”
In today’s first reading, we heard Amaziah bashing Amos the prophet for prophesying doom instead of “love” and “tolerance” and “equality.” There we find a prototype of contemporary evangelism, what St. John Paul II called “the super-market of religion.” Like Amaziah, modern evangelists are in the business of manipulation of the Word of God and flattery of their hearers. They contrive, construct and emplace a pseudo-reality of the love of God, and by means of accompanying slogans grafted from isolated verses of the Bible, their oratorical skills and exploitative power, they weaken the ability of their hearers to exercise rational judgment. Often, the aim is that their listeners might dig deep into their pockets and make donations for the unrestrained comforts of the so-called women and men of God. Worshippers are encouraged to have no sense of guilt about their sinful lives for Jesus would always wash their sins away (even if they persisted in their evil ways).
This was the prevailing situation in Israel when Amos rose to preach to the hearts of the people led astray by Amaziah and his company of bread and butter prophets, who encouraged them to engage in idolatrous worship and gratify their fleshly desires. Surely, this is the prevailing situation in modern society. Many have surrendered their hold upon the real; truth has become a matter of whatever you call it; the conscience is dulled, numbed and killed. A new form of paganism has been installed under different names as rights, equality, non-discrimination, alternate life-style, and so on. Christianity has become a minority view and the true practice of the Christian faith has become, for modern society, an intolerant position punishable by the new laws of the state.
Yet, we are free to rebel against the Divine order, but cannot escape the effects of such rebellion. As Shakespeare said in Macbeth: “Unnatural deeds do breed unnatural troubles; infected minds to their deaf pillows must discharge their secrets.” Defiance of morality manifests itself in depressions, boredom, suicides, lives wrecked by addiction to drugs, alcohol and pornography, the highest rate of divorce in history, etc. As a broken bone hurts because it is not where it ought to be, so a conscience too, is painful when it’s not where it ought to be—namely, in a right relationship with God” (Sheen). St. Paul reveals in the second reading that God chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless, and to live in his presence (Eph 1:4). We cannot find true happiness in any other thing than God. While sending them out, Jesus warned his disciple to beware of excessive adornments and love of material comfort as these are rather proof of inner nakedness and excess luggage that would drown the ship of evangelism. Truly, the more rich a soul is on the inside, the less need it has of luxuries on the outside. When material possession gives way to spiritual possession, there comes a “vacancy” sign on our heart which makes Christ come knocking at the entrance (Sheen).
Fr. Chukwudi Jo Okonkwo