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Doug GirardotJuly 02, 2022
Photo from Unsplash.

A Reflection for the Saturday of the Thirteenth week in Ordinary Time

“The juice of grapes shall drip down the mountains,

and all the hills shall run with it” (Am 2:13)

The first reading and the Gospel today seem to contradict each other. In Amos, we hear how God plans to rebuild Jerusalem, even after the prophet declared in earlier passages how the city would be destroyed for the Israelites’ transgressions. The riches of this restoration are signified, mysteriously but oh so sensuously, in the image of wine dripping from the mountains.

But in the Gospel, Jesus teaches that the old ways of doing things won’t cut it. Again, the image of wine spilling—or rather “bursting” from old wineskins—is used, but this time it connotes something quite different: a lost gift, a squandered abundance. Jesus says this to respond to the criticisms that he and his disciples fail to adequately follow Jewish law. But strict observance of the letter of the law, he argues, is too inflexible a medium for God’s elastic love.

How can we make sense of the seeming incongruities between these two passages? Maybe they are both true: God will indeed rebuild the world in glory, but he will simultaneously “make all things new” (cf. Rev 21:5).

Yes, we must work with the Lord to restore our world. But we have to restore it to something better than what we’ve known.

This way of thinking is only too relevant to our current moment in history. We are emerging, however tentatively, from a global pandemic, a plague which removed society’s varnish to reveal economic and racial inequalities that determined who lived and who died. And just in the last week, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

No matter how one feels about the politics of this situation, most everyone ought to agree that we cannot go back to the way things were.

Our society, no matter how politicians attempt to gild its history, was not terribly Christian before the pandemic, or even before Roe was decided in 1973. Both Covid-19 and the decision to remove constitutional protections for abortion have merely provided incendiary crises in which existing injustices were no longer possible to ignore.

God will rebuild Jerusalem, yes. But Amos makes it clear that the Lord doesn’t want to return to a time when the chosen people “trample[d] the heads of the destitute into the dust of the earth” (Am 2:7). Nor, I believe, does he want us today to return to a time when essential work was written off as loathsome, or to continue with unjust economic and personal realities that lead so many women to the impossible brink of choosing whether or not to have a child.

Yes, we must work with the Lord to restore our world. But we have to restore it to something better than what we’ve known.

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