We are Called to Bring Justice and Show Mercy

First Reading: 1 Am 8:4-6, 9-12

Psalm: 119:2, 10, 20, 30, 40, 131

Gospel: Mt 9:9-13

Matthew the tax collector and the rich Israelites of Amos’s day were engaged pretty much in the same sort of business activity. Both robbed the poor. In the first reading Amos condemns the rich Israelites because they could hardly wait for the Sabbath and other feast days to come to an end to get back to their business of unjust profiteering, of gouging the poor. They lessened the size of the grain measure (the epha) so the poor would get less when they buy, and they increased the silver measure (the shekel) so the poor would have to pay more. They maltreated the poor, treated them as commodities to be bought and sold. They sold to them even the leavings of the wheat, swept up from the floor, food unfit for human consumption.

The tax collector in Jesus’ day also gouged the poor. He bought the job of tax collector from the Romans. He made his living by overcharging his countrymen, rich and poor. What was over and above the required tax he kept for himself. He made a good living.

The Pharisees condemned tax collectors just as Amos condemned the oppressors of the poor in his day. What the Pharisees didn’t see was that Amos’s condemnation was an attempt to call the unjust rich to repentance. Nor did they see that Jesus’ friendship with tax collectors and other sinners was an attempt to bring them to repentance.

Jesus sees the Pharisees as wanting in mercy even as the rich of Amos’s day showed no mercy to the poor whom they squeezed ruthlessly. To correct the Pharisees, Jesus cites the prophet Amos, “Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘It is mercy I desire and not sacrifice.'”

The lives of Christians are to be patterned on Jesus’ life. We are to be concerned about both justice and mercy. We are to bring justice to those suffering injustice, we are to show mercy to all.