In Psalm 85:9, the responsorial for today, we hear “The Lord speaks of Peace to his people”. And for some days now we have been reading from the Prophet Amos, who was sent to Israel, the Northern part of the divided kingdom to preach to them a message of repentance, to come back to their God. The kind of repentance Amos preached was what I would call a bit more thorough, because this time it concerned a change of heart and a questioning of conscience in the worship of God. This time the people of Israel had not stopped offering sacrifices to God, they had not another God in place of God, like Baal, but there was a lot of injustice and unrighteousness, even when they did not do all these.
It was as though they were now doing God a favor, for they still did evil while offering sacrifices to God. This is why God said to them in Amos 5:21-24, “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and cereal offerings, I will not accept them, and the peace offerings of your fatted beasts I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream”. It may sound strange at first, especially to some of us now that God is refusing to accept sacrifices. This is because many of us think that the reason why we are called by God is to offer him sacrifices, and worship. Some people already see going to Church, even on a Sunday, as a duty, not to talk of on a weekday. Sometimes we feel God needs our presence and our money in the offertory box. The truth is that he doesn’t!!! This is why in Psalm 50, a corresponding Psalm to Amos 5, in its 11thto 13th verses we hear God say, “I know all the birds of the air, and all that moves in the field is mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you; for the world and all that is in it is mine. Do I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? “. So that is not what God wants. From Amos 5, we see that what God wants is Justice and Righteousness. During the prophet Amos’ time, it happened that If someone owed you money, you deserved the right to strip him naked and take him to the market place and sell him off in exchange for goods. Well, you can say, ‘what injustice!’, but you can also say, ‘what lack of love!’
God wants justice and Righteousness to flow from us and around us, because that is what would give us Love and Peace. And in order to find Justice and righteousness, we must find God. And in other to have Love and Peace, we need God. What does God want from us? He wants our Peace. He wants us to experience Love and Peace unending, He wants us to have Him, our ultimate Love and our ultimate Peace. At this point I remember that St. Augustine said to God, “You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee”. Is that not what many of us look for today in this war-torn world that is full of selfishness and struggle? Here and there we hear of people suffering and economies going bad, we hear of kidnap, and murder and bomb blasts, we even experience a lack of Love among us, as though, we are doomed to want things only for ourselves? It is precisely this that God has come to erase from our world, if only we can look away from created things, and fix the eyes of our hearts on him. That is the only way we can find that Peace which the world cannot give. (John 14:27) In the book of John 20:21, after Jesus rises from the dead, he greets his apostles with ‘Peace’. And Ephesians 2:14 says that He is our peace.
It is remarkable how God wants to give us Peace and Love. In fact, after what we read in Amos 5, we read in Amos 9 today, from verse 14, “I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant them upon their land and they shall never again be plucked up out of the land which I have given them.”
In the gospel of today from Matthew 9 from verse 14, the disciples of John came to ask Jesus why they and the Pharisees fast but his disciples didn’t. And what did our Lord tell them? That the wedding guests do not fast when the bridegroom is with them. They make merry and are joyful, because the bridegroom will provide wine for the feast. But when the Bridegroom is taken away from them? Then, they will fast. When Christ our bridegroom is with us, we experience feasting, for our hearts are at peace and are full of the love which he brings. We need to pray that he remains with us always, we need to spread that Love and that Joy around us, in our dealings with others, so that the whole world would come to know the Peace which it can never find, except in God. God wants, and has come to give you Peace!
From your friend and brother: Chibuzor F. Ogamba