“Do two walk together unless they have agreed? Does a lion roar in the forest when it has no prey? Does a young lion cry out from its den unless it has seized something? Is a bird brought to earth by a snare when there is no lure for it? Does a snare spring up from the ground without catching anything? If the trumpet sounds in a city, will the people not be frightened? If evil befalls a city, has not the LORD caused it?” (Amos 3:3-6)
The prophet Amos delivers a series of rhetorical questions to the children of Israel in today’s first reading. I will admit that this is a reading with which I am not all that familiar. So as we were gathered for prayer this morning, the questions startled me. Just what is the prophet getting at? However, it did eventually come to me. Each one of these rhetorical questions focuses on “cause” and “effect.” When a lion roars, it does so to scare its prey or to signal his victory over the prey. If a bird falls from the sky, it happens because it has been caught in a snare.
It was the first question that really intrigued me because it brought me back to one of my favorite scenes in all of Scripture. In the Book of Genesis we read: “When they heard the sound of the LORD God walking about in the garden at the breezy time of the day, the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8). Though it is implicit, it seems that God and Adam used to walk through the garden in the evening. As a result of their sin, Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden. No longer would they be allowed to walk with God in the breezy time of day.
Amos begins his rhetorical questions by noting that only when two are in agreement can they walk together. When I think about what Jesus has done for us through his sacrifice on the cross, I often think of the fact that once again, I can walk together with God because Jesus has washed away the effects of Adam’s sin through baptism.
Of course, Amos’ uses these questions to explain the coming punishment (the Babylonian captivity). Israel has forsaken its covenant relationship with God. They no longer walk together. They have turned to other gods, false gods. They have forgotten their responsibility to care for the poor and the vulnerable members of their community.
This passage does rely upon the “theology of reciprocity.” Do good, and God will be good to you. We cannot use it to explain the presence of evil in the world even though the prophets did so. We have an advantage over them. We have Jesus. We have his example of redemptive suffering. Jesus was obedient because of his love for God, not because he was trying to avoid suffering. So too, we cling to our covenant with God to express our love for God. We cannot earn the reward that is promised for those who love God. It is a gift freely given. How grateful we should be that we can, in fact, walk together with God because Jesus has reconciled us to the Father.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator