Memorial of St. Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher, Martyrs, AD 1998 (June 22)

A justice and peace meditation on the daily lectionary readings

Readings: 2 Kings 17:5-8, 13-15,18 -- Psalm 60 -- Matthew 7:1-5

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It must have been a terrifying time in ancient Israel -- utter destruction of the nation by the Assyrians, a people so brutal and warlike that to this day their name can send shivers down your spine. Today's first reading records the fulfillment of prophecies of Isaiah that we have studied that directly relate to justice and peace. "Deported the Israelites", a short phrase, isn't the half of it. Standard Assyrian practice in those days was to chain deported captives such as this together with hooks placed through their nostrils. War, ruin, death, starvation, catastrophe on a national scale. "Only the tribe of Judah was left."

And what was their crime? False worship, abandoning the God of Israel, forsaking God's laws and statutes, following the laws, customs and rites of other nations. God had sent prophets to call them to repentance and obedience to God's commands, but the people did not listen, preferring to live in denial and stubbornness. "The vanity they pursued, they themselves became." Verse 17 is not in the lectionary reading, but it remains pertinent: they murdered their children, offering them to false gods.

We must remind ourselves: what was the nature of the law and the statutes that Israel had been commanded? To worship the only true God, to forsake false gods, to live in solidarity with all the people of Israel, to protect the poor and the widow and the orphan, to enable the participation of all in the economic life of the nation.

Both God and the Church send a clear message with this lectionary reading. What you plant is what you reap. If you sow injustice, you will reap societal disaster. Enemies will come upon you and your nation will not be able to resist. You will fall, of your own internal contradictions, because of the wickedness that you have participated in. You will become the vanity that you pursue.

In today's Gospel, our Lord reminds us that with the judgment we apply to others, we will ourselves be judged, surely a good and righteous principle that we can all benefit from. This is another call to solidarity. Those who are better off are often fond of judging those who are poor; we are called lazy, promiscuous, degenerate, criminal, and the bloated federal budget and huge deficit is laid at the feet of means-tested poverty programs. All those in Congress, and all those in the think tanks and media that feed this frenzy, would do well to heed these words from God.

The way we treat the poor is the way God is going to treat us. (See also Matthew 25). This is a most scary thought.

Our Lady of Sorrows, send us a spirit of deep contrition and sorrow for the many sins of this generation and the nations of the world!

Today is the memorial of Bishop John Fishes and Thomas More, saints and confessors of England. On this day we remember their steadfast faith in Jesus Christ and their refusal "unto death" to yield to the unjust demands of the King. May their examples give us fortitude and courage to resist the unjust demands of our own era.

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