Memorial of the First Martyrs of Rome (June 30)

Readings: Amos 3:1-8, 4:11-12 -- Matthew 8:23-27 -- Psalm 5

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Today the Prophet Amos who wrote during a period of great prosperity under King Jeroboam II (786-746 BC). It is largely written in poetry, and the Prophet clearly denounces throughout his writing the economic injustices of the era -- although there was prosperity, the rich were persecuting the poor, stealing their substance, cheating them of their wages. In the chapter 2, just prior to today's reading, he condemns in strong language those who "trample the heads of the weak into the dust of the earth". Today's reading is a reminder that actions have consequences and that those who are blessed have a great responsibility for how they receive that blessing and what they do with it.

In today's Gospel, Jesus and his disciples were in a boat on the sea of Gallilee, when a storm came up. The apostles were afraid they would sink, but Jesus (who had been sleeping through the tumult until awakened by their cries for help) -- with but a word -- calms the storm and settles the sea.

It's not fashionable these days to believe in the miracles of Jesus. Many learned people spend a lot of time explaining how the miracles of the Bible are actually just reinterpretations of natural events. Jesus was lucky that the storm stopped right when he prayed -- the assumption being that his word had nothing to do with subsequent events. Such people are too smart for me. Miracles happen every day, some great, some small. Those of us who work for justice and peace are well aware of the power of the Gospel to change lives and transform structures of sin. We may not be able to still the political tempests of our day with a simple word, but the same grace that was upon Jesus in his ministry is available to us today.

So we do not have to work in our strength, indeed, if that is the foundation of our ministry, we will be like the apostles -- constantly in danger of being swamped by the waves of chaos and tumult which rage about us. But if we work in the strength and grace of God, our own human abilities are strengthened and we receive what we need to do the work that God has called us to do. Granted, sometimes we don't recognize the help He sends us as being help, but it is sent anyway and if we cultivate a discerning heart, we will be able to better understand God's will in our ministry.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, who is a model of discernment and empowerment, in the appearance of an Aztec maiden shows us the way that this truth travels. Who could expect help from an Azteec maiden in Mexico in the 16th century? How could such a vision be of any assistance at all? Yet, millions have found such grace and peace in this experience that we are once again reminded that the Word of God is still more powerful than the storms of human rage.

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