What's the Point of Being Saved if There's Nothing to Be Saved From?
Amos 8:4-6, 9-12.
Psalm 119:2, 10, 20, 30, 40, 131.
The Thirteenth Friday of Ordinary Time.
A Votive Mass of the Sacred Heart for the First Friday of the Month.
The 238th Anniversary of the Independence of the United States.
Readings from Cycle II of the feria, according to the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite (nothing from the optional texts for Independence Day).
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9:30 AM 7/4/2014 —
All your feasting turned to lament, all your songs to dirge and dole; not a loin but goes clad in sackcloth, not a head but is shaved bald; never was such mourning made, though it were for an only son; bitter the day, bitter its ending. A time is coming, says the Lord God, when there shall be great lack in the land, yet neither dearth nor drought. Hunger? Ay, they shall hunger for some message from the Lord, yet go they from eastern to western sea, go they from north to south, making search for it everywhere, message from the Lord they shall have none (Amos 8:10-12).
No, I haven't not lost my mind. That's Msgr. Knox's translation of the last few verses of today's first lesson from the Prophet Amos. The translation from our official book used at Holy Mass is not a bad translation at all; but, you do have to admit that Msgr. Knox, who did his translation toward the very end of the Victorian era, gives a certain panache to it, and it illustrates why I haven't been talking about Amos during my times with you at Mass this week: because it's so darned depressing.
It's First Friday, so we're celebrating the Votive Mass of the Sacred Heart as we always do when allowed; it's also Independence Day, so we also pray today for our beloved country. And, in the context of this observance, the words of the Prophet Amos seem particularly appropriate; here, the translation in our official book is particularly clear: “Yes, the days are coming, says the Lord God, when I will send famine upon the land: Not a famine of bread, or thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the Lord” (8:11). Thank back, if you can and were here, to a week ago Wednesday, when we were looking at the Second Book of Kings. The King of Judea, whose country is in a shambles, discovers the Book of Moses in the ruins of the Temple. He reads it out loud to the people, and immediately everyone knows what's been going wrong all this time: their ancestors had made this covenant with God, but over the years it had been forgotten, and this was why things weren't going well. And I had suggested to you that, if we perceive our country to be in a similar condition, it's probably for the same reason.
I don't have to tell you that watching the news these days can be a depressing prospect for anyone who loves this country, and particularly for those of us who both love our country and practice our Catholic Faith. And, as the Prophet Amos says, it's not because of famine or drought—not because of any natural disaster—that we weep for our nation; that we could understand and handle. It's because our country has turned away from the Word of God. But if the words of the Prophet teach us anything, they teach us that we're not the first, nor will we be the last, people to suffer through such times. It is the God-given lot of every believer to live in the midst of those who do not believe; and, it is the privilege of those of us devoted to the messages of Our Lady at Fatima, through our observance of the First Saturday devotion, to offer reparation for the sins of our compatriots.
I say “privilege” because that's what it is, and that's how we must view it. In today's Gospel lesson, Our Lord, himself, says, “It is not those who are in health that have need of the physician, it is those who are sick” (Matt. 9:12). When I was in the seminary—about 400 years ago, it seems—we had a visit from Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and she said something in her talk to us which I will never forget. She said, “What is the point of being saved if there's nothing to be saved from?” The blind people to whom Our Lord gave sight would never have received that gift had they not been blind in the first place; all the people our Lord cured in the Gospel passages we've been reading through at Mass this week from chapter eight of Matthew would never have been cured by Our Lord had they not been afflicted in the first place. And it's because our country is in such desperate need of an infusion of Grace that it will receive it; maybe not when we would like, maybe not even in our life-time, but it will happen; and, it will happen because of our First Saturdays, our acts of reparation, our prayers and sacrifices.
And what will happen to our country will also happen to ourselves as we endure our own personal trials and crosses. The only thing we need to worry about is the temptation to become discouraged and give up. Let's make that a particular intention during this Holy Mass of the Sacred Heart, and during the Holy Hour that will follow. Let us pray for the only thing that will ultimately save both our country and ourselves: that “the Heart of Jesus be praised, adored and loved with grateful affection, at every moment, in all the tabernacles of the world, even unto the end of time. Amen.”