“Yes, days are coming, says the Lord GOD, when I will send famine upon the land: Not a famine of bread, or thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the LORD. Then shall they wander from sea to sea and rove from the north to the east In search of the word of the LORD, but they shall not find it” (Amos 8:11-12).
Anyone who has looked at the news in the past few years knows of the drought conditions that have been afflicting California and other areas of the Western and Southwestern United States. Plumbing the depths of climate change will also tell us of devastating droughts in other parts of the world. Being without water is something that I cannot possibly imagine as I live on the banks of Lake Michigan, one of the largest and deepest fresh water bodies of water in the world.
I also cannot imagine a drought such as the one that is mentioned in the first reading for today’s liturgy from the Book of the Prophet Amos: a drought of the Word of God. I have become so used to reading from the Scriptures every day of my life that I simply cannot imagine what life would be like without them. Yet, I know that there are people in the world, yes in our own country, who have never heard the Word of God.
I remember a story that one of our pastors tells. He had been playing basketball with young people of the neighborhood in the parish gym. As the night of games came to an end and as he was locking up the gym, he noticed that someone had left the lights of the church on. He said to the gathered youth, “Looks like the lights are on in the Church. I am going to go shut them off. Anyone want to come with me?” It was then that he heard one of the boys whisper to a friend that he had never been inside a church before. The story reminded me of my days as a high school teacher. As we were getting close to graduation and were planning for the baccalaureate Mass, one of my students told me that he had never been in a Church before and was wondering what it would be like.
Of course, there are other places to hear the Word of God. One does not have to be a member of a church or even a regular participant in organized worship. However, that which I take for granted is not part of everyone’s life. I am particularly taken by the image that Amos uses of people roving about, wandering, looking for the Word of God. Indeed, without the Word of God, I would be “rudderless.”
Amos speaks of this as a punishment for not heeding the needs of the poor and for not keeping the Sabbath. All I can say as I listen to the Word of God is a prayer of gratitude that I am not living in such a drought!
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator