Wrestling with the problems of social injustice in society seems to be perennial. Two of the saints of our Judeo-Christian tradition faced these problems and both have left us a record: the prophet Amos with his words (Amos 3) and Blessed Oscar Romero with his life. We remembered Blessed Oscar last month. In a course on the biblical prophets, my students wrote out a possible initial conversation between Amos and Oscar when Oscar died and met Amos in the presence of the Holy One. The following is an excellent dialogue written by our Father Martin Gallagher.
Romero: I see the faces of my people and look deep into their eyes. They hunger and thirst, some for peace, some for security, and some for food and water.
Amos: I see the faces of my people and look deep into their eyes. They are ignored, pushed aside, and forgotten. They hunger and thirst for justice and fair treatment.
Romero: I see the faces of those who come into my church. They arrive for Mass dressed in all their finery. They smile kindly, pray reverently, and sing joyously. They are government officials, police officers and soldiers. I know what they will do when they leave my church.
Amos: I see the faces of those who go to worship in the temple. They arrive early to purchase the finest animals for sacrifice, they make grain and incense offerings, and they piously reflect on God's Word in hymns and prayers. I know what they will do when they leave the temple.
Romero: They will terrorize and harass my people. They will kidnap those who work for justice. They will drag them from their homes in the night and subject them to such humiliating degradation, and then they will come to church again the following Sunday.
Amos: They will walk proudly by the blind and the lame lining the walkways into the temple. They will pretend not to hear the cries of the starving, the sick and the deformed. They will return to their businesses and trades, ready to defraud and manipulate their clients that their purses may overflow with coins. They will come again the next day to offer sacrifice in the temple, all with coins gained through lying and cheating.
Romero: I baptize them when they are children. I give them Holy Communion, and I hear their confessions. They grow up just like their parents. They seek more wealth, more land and more oppression. And I baptize the children of the poor, the children born in the streets. They will grow up and some will fight for change, only to be murdered by the children of the rich I have already baptized.
Amos: I work among the sheep, the goats, tending the flocks of my employer. I dress his sycamores and bring good quality products for him to sell. He cheats his clients and undercuts his competition, so that he will have the highest demand for his goods. He plots to take the land of his neighbors; he seeks ways to defraud the hard-working peasant family. He uses the money I have made for him to grind down the widowed and orphaned. I tend his flocks and grow his sycamores, so that he can use his money to starve his neighbors.
Romero: Those who do evil think no one sees or cares. Those who suffer injustice think no one sees or cares.
Amos: Those who do evil think no one sees or cares. Those who suffer injustice think no one sees or cares.
The Holy One: I see and I care.