Daily Reflection for June 15, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  JUNE 15  •  Holy Prophet Amos

It is not always easy to conquer the spirit of vanity and conceit in oneself. In this, only the great spiritual directors have succeeded, primarily with God’s grace, with constant vigilance over their souls and with very delicate spiritual sensitivities and distinctions. At one time, Abba Nisteroes was walking with one of his brethren. Suddenly, they spotted a serpent on the road. The brother quickly moved aside and the great Nisteroes fled after him. “Are you also afraid, father?” the monk asked Nisteroes. The elder replied: “No, my son, I am not afraid but I had to flee otherwise I would not have fled from the spirit of vanity.” That is: “Had I remained in place, you would have been amazed at me and I would have become vain from that!” (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

“Out of all the families of the earth, I have especially known you. Therefore, I shall exact vengeance upon you for all your sins. If two people walk together, will each one not come to know the other? Will a lion roar from his lair in the forest if he has no prey? Will a lion’s whelp cry out from his den if he has nothing? Will a bird fall to the earth without a fowler? Will a snare be sprung if it has caught nothing? If a trumpet is sounded in a city, will not the people be alarmed? If evil should be in a city, has not the Lord brought it? For the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals instruction to His servants the prophets. A lion shall roar and who will not fear? The Lord God speaks, and who will not prophesy?” (Amos 3:2-8)

Today the Church commemorates the Holy Prophet Amos. In a lovely bit of providence, my personal reading finds me exactly in the Book of Amos. Amos prophesied to Judah from 795-754 B.C. and was the first of the prophets to have his prophecies written down, “perhaps because he was the first prophet to proclaim the end of God’s covenant with Israel for their stubborn unrepentance.” (Orthodox Study Bible). In speaking to Israel, Amos also speaks to the New Israel — the Church. He notes the unique relationship of God to His people. But it is because of that relationship that vengeance shall come upon them for their apostasy and sin. That warning is enough to make us pause. But then he makes a little list of everyday things that image the sin of Israel. We walk with sin. The lion who will not roar without prey is an allegory for the temptations that beset us. The prey (temptation) is indeed there, and we devour it. A bird doesn’t just fall from the sky, so we are caught in the fowler’s net of temptation and sin. Shouldn’t they have been alarmed at the trumpet sound of the prophets and we the sound of the apostles and saints?

Finally, he says that “If evil should be in a city, has not the Lord brought it?” This is a difficult and heavy statement. But St. John Chrysostom, quoted in the Orthodox Study Bible, explains it: “Now evil is a many-faceted thing…. There is evil, which is really evil: fornication, adultery, covetousness, and the countless dreadful things, which are worthy of the utmost reproach and punishment. Again, there is evil, which rather is not evil but is called so: famine, pestilence, death, disease, and other of a similar nature…. These were evils intended to become the sources of good to us, chastening our pride, goading our sloth and leading us on to zeal, making us more attentive.” The prophecy of Amos spoke not only to the Old Israel, but to the New Israel. The words of St. John Chrysostom could be headlined on today’s news as “the cause of all this turmoil in the world.” What do we do with these words of prophecy? Holy Prophet Amos, pray to God for us!