OUTCASTS ARE ALSO CHILDREN OF GOD
In strong terms, Amos scolds the people that their rituals, their liturgies, are worthless if they do not honour God by practicing justice.
Jesus takes pity on people considered possessed by the devil, outcasts of little value to their pagan fellow citizens, who are more concerned about the loss of their pigs than over the cure of these outcasts. This text is difficult to understand unless we pay attention to the underlying theme of impurity. The outcasts from whom Jesus will exorcise demons live in an impure place, a cemetery; the demons are driven out into pigs, unclean animals for the Jews. The pagans of the region do not yet recognize Jesus and this seems to indicate that the story is symbolic of times still to come: evil is still rampant. But in any case the power of Jesus is already working. Among the present demons asking for abyss is racism, as the world chants along the streets that “Black Lives” (indeed, every life) Matter.
Lord our God, Your Son Jesus Christ took pity on people rejected by their society and restored them as human beings. Never allow us to judge anyone and to reject people from our communities. Make us leave the judgment to you for you alone know what is going on in the hearts of people. Make us mild and compassionate through Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 Reading: Amos 5:14-15, 21-24
Seek good and not evil, that you may live; Then truly will the LORD, the God of hosts, be with you as you claim! Hate evil and love good, and let justice prevail at the gate; Then it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts, will have pity on the remnant of Joseph. I hate, I spurn your feasts, says the LORD, I take no pleasure in your solemnities; Your cereal offerings I will not accept, nor consider your stall-fed peace offerings. Away with your noisy songs! I will not listen to the melodies of your harps. But if you would offer me burnt offerings, then let justice surge like water, and goodness like an unfailing stream.
Responsorial Psalm 50:7, 8-9, 10-11, 12-13, 16BC-17
R. (23b) To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
“Hear, my people, and I will speak;
Israel, I will testify against you;
God, your God, am I.” R.
“Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you,
for your burnt offerings are before me always.
I take from your house no bullock,
no goats out of your fold.” R.
“For mine are all the animals of the forests,
beasts by the thousand on my mountains.
I know all the birds of the air,
and whatever stirs in the plains, belongs to me.” R.
“If I were hungry, I should not tell you,
for mine are the world and its fullness.
Do I eat the flesh of strong bulls,
or is the blood of goats my drink?” R.
“Why do you recite my statutes,
and profess my covenant with your mouth,
Though you hate discipline
and cast my words behind you?” R.
Alleluia James 1:18
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Father willed to give us birth by the word of truth
that we may be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Matthew 8:28-34
When Jesus came to the territory of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs who were coming from the tombs met him. They were so savage that no one could travel by that road. They cried out, “What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the appointed time?” Some distance away a herd of many swine was feeding. The demons pleaded with him, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of swine.” And he said to them, “Go then!” They came out and entered the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea where they drowned. The swineherds ran away, and when they came to the town they reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs. Thereupon the whole town came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him they begged him to leave their district.
Jesus’ expulsion of the demons from the possessed Gadarenes takes an unusual twist. The unclean pigs become the recipients of the demons and then charge into the sea. Evil deserves no better treatment. And according to popular folklores, that’s there abode. In fact, in this story, the demons are primary protagonists. They implicate themselves, ask for exit and even suggest destination. They know they don’t belong in the heart and soul of man, God’s image and dwelling place.
Amos exhorts his people to seek good and avoid evil in order to assure a blessed future. Only when justice is at the gate will God look favourably and have pity on them.
It is useless to spend time on observances. Feasts and offerings have no value if life is not correct before God. Music and song will not succeed in tempering God’s wrath. These are things that will have value when justice pours forth like water and goodness like a constant stream.
Furthering this line of thought, today’s Christians say their Church is afire because of music and dancing. Liturgical planning, on the other hand, is an important part in parish life today, and with good reason. We do not want the sacred to be treated irreverently. But liturgy must always be one part of a lived and conscious expression of our Christian faith. To emphasize only the beauty of our rituals and hymns and dancing, while neglecting to witness God in our everyday behaviour and life, is to lose sight of the forest for the trees.
– For the Church, that like our God, it may care for those who are least favored and least loved, so that the gospel may be good news to them, we pray:
– For governments and public officials, that they may not tolerate favoritism or discrimination of any kind and that they may defend the oppressed and restore their rights, we pray:
– For those considered outcasts by “respectable” society, that we may not judge them, but that our goodness, respect and understanding may help them to integrate themselves in our communities, we pray:
Prayer over the Gifts
Lord, loving God,
your Son Jesus died on the cross
as an outcast deserted by his people,
but that was the way in which he saved us.
Let this offering of bread and wine express
that we are one with Jesus
and that with him we accept people
the way you accept them and want to save them.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Prayer after Communion
God, our Father,
you have let us share the table of your Son
and let us join him in giving praise and thanks to you.
By his power we want to continue
giving you honour and thanks
with the whole of our everyday lives
through deeds of justice, love
and endless compassion for people
who lose their struggle with the difficulties of life.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.
“Let justice flow like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” If we can be just and good, the Lord will listen to us and accept our offering, for then it will be part of the sacrifice of Jesus. May God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!