Thus says the Lord: For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals— they who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, and push the afflicted out of the way; father and son go in to the same girl, so that my holy name is profaned; they lay themselves down beside every altar on garments taken in pledge; and in the house of their God they drink wine bought with fines they imposed.
Yet I destroyed the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of cedars, and who was as strong as oaks; I destroyed his fruit above, and his roots beneath. Also I brought you up out of the land of Egypt, and led you forty years in the wilderness, to possess the land of the Amorite. So, I will press you down in your place, just as a cart presses down when it is full of sheaves. Flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong shall not retain their strength, nor shall the mighty save their lives; those who handle the bow shall not stand, and those who are swift of foot shall not save themselves, nor shall those who ride horses save their lives; and those who are stout of heart among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day, says the Lord.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
The prophet Amos colorfully articulates how abuse of power leads to oppression and unjust systems. People are bought and sold, and policy-making that should protect the common good instead oppresses those who dare to be righteous. Worse, those with power imagine that they deserve all the money and influence they have acquired. God reminds such abusers that they would have nothing at all were it not for God’s power and compassion.
In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius’ “Three Kinds of Humility” prayer helps us search our hearts for the humility to follow Jesus in loving others, even, if called upon, sacrificing our status and possessions for the sake of God’s kingdom. It’s impossible to oppress others when we see ourselves rightly—as loved by God and acting with God to express that love in the world.
How do I see myself? Can I give up power for love?
—Vinita Wright serves as Managing Editor, New Product Development, at Loyola Press, Chicago, IL.
Jesus, you humbled yourself to reach us.
You spoke human language to tell us who we really are.
Help us remember that, always, your love lifts us to the Father
and that humility’s love—tireless, gentle, and true—is power made holy.