The consequences of our actions can be foreseen in the divine order and we are offered help to discern them. This is the theme I see running through all three of today’s readings (go here for the passages).
In Amos and Mark we see monarchs at odds with prophets, full of suspicion.
Jeroboam, king of Israel, the northern political splinter resulting from quarrels between David and Solomon’s heirs, has set up the cult of a Golden Calf (hmm ... where have we heard of this before?) to mesmerize ten tribes of the Hebrews into following him.
Fast-forward some seven centuries or so to the time Jesus, who has begun to gain a reputation for casting out demons and healing. Herod Antipas, king of Galilee, the northern part of what was once
Jeroboam’s domain, is reminded by the wonder worker of
someone: indeed, the man’s cousin John, prophet and cleanser of sins by
As Amos warned Jeroboam of a bad end (idolatrous Israel weakens and the people are taken captive to Babylon), John had once warned the king about Herodias, his brother’s wife. Now Herod sees in Jesus the spectre of John. Like Hamlet, he knows something is rotten in the kingdom.
Act and consequence. Only Amos and John, called out to tell how God sees things, read the signs of the times as God decoded them.
Unaided and on our own, we are all like Jeroboam and Herod. As Jeroboam, we are lured to worship false idols: the almighty dollar, power, sex and so many other things we pursue with zeal, into captivity. I empathize with Herod: I know the lure of adultery and the manipulation with which a young woman can flatter an older man to promise her anything, even the head of a prophet.
That is why Jesus appears to Herod, and to us, as an accusing spectre, the upright man whose holiness lays bare our concupiscence, that is, our ardent desires for sex, power and the money that can buy them.
It is only after conversion, as Paul writes in Ephesians to those who have accepted the grace of Jesus Christ, that we become adoptive children of God, “marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit” able to rise to apply the divine view of our times, just like the prophets.
It doesn’t matter that, like Amos, we are just herders and dressers of sycamores. We are forgiven, redeemed, endowed with an inheritance to “live for the praise of his glory.”
All this is just how things are. It isn’t God being a spoilsport. What our actions will lead to becomes obvious from the point of view of someone who hears and sees from God’s point of view.
Today’s Readings: Amos 7:7-15, Ephesians 1:3-14, Mark 6:14-29