by Father Mike Stubbs
Various teachers will stress different points of morality according to the times in which they live and experiences they themselves have undergone personally.
For example, someone living during a period of sexual licentiousness might emphasize sexual morality. Someone living in an era of atheism might emphasize the importance of remaining faithful to God by carrying out the religious obligations of worship and prayer. Different teachers will emphasize different points of morality as they see the need for them.
The prophet Amos is famous for criticizing sins against economic justice. Sunday’s first reading, Am 8:4- 7, reflects this concern of his. By imagining the thoughts of those planning to sin against the poor, he compiles a list of their misdeeds. Their greed causes them to begrudge the Sabbath rest which cuts into their sales: “When will the new moon be over, that we may sell our grain, and the sabbath, that we may display the wheat?”
Similarly, their greed leads them into blatant dishonesty and cheating: “We will diminish the ephah, add to the shekel, and fix our scales for cheating.” Their greed also causes them to ignore the plight of their fellow human beings and to minimize their worth: “We will buy the lowly for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals.” By this, they fall into the ultimate economic sin of slavery, which views human beings as property to be bought and sold.
Evidently, Amos witnessed these sins being committed. That is why he weighs in against them. He lived during a period of relative prosperity, in the eighth century before Christ, in the northern kingdom of Israel. There were many who prospered, but often it was at the expense of those who carried little clout in society.
For example, widows and orphans had no one to defend them from unscrupulous predators. Those dealing with physical handicaps had great difficulty In making it in the world. Often, they were reduced to begging. All these tended to suffer economically.
The economic sins that the prophet Amos criticized unfortunately continue on in our own day. Greed led to dishonesty in the stock market, which caused investors to lose millions in their savings. Even slavery continues in our day, only now we call it human trafficking. The prophetic words of Amos still ring true.
That is why the Catechism of the Catholic Church re- minds us: “‘The Church’s love for the poor…is a part of her constant tradition.’ This love is inspired by the Gospel of the Beatitudes, of the poverty of Jesus, and of his concern for the poor. Love for the poor is even one of the motives
for the duty of working so as to ‘be able to give to those in need’” (no. 2444).