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Gospel Commentary: The new normal

Every generation has its favorite sayings, short-hand phrases and images. One of the shorthand phrases, originally from the world of finance, in common use today is the "new normal." It refers to a previously unusual situation that is now perceived as routine. It is like a person looking in a mirror every day not noticing any perceptible changes until a friend who has been gone for a while notices the change immediately.


The same thing can occur in societies and communities. That is what happened in the northern kingdom of Israel. Not only was there a huge disparity between rich and poor, but there was an indifference to the plight of the poor that triggered the condemnation of Israel by Amos. In a series of verbal snapshots, he gives searing pictures of the national vices of people all around Israel. But his major focus is on the northern kingdom of Israel. He even travels to the king's residence and temple and there issues his calls to repent, to look at what is happening to the community of Israel, how hearts are being hardened as rampant individualism infects the lives and minds of the people. The leaders of the people don't want to listen to Amos. The king's chaplain Amaziah tells Amos to make himself scarce. Indifference to the poor had become the "new normal."


The church today is sent like the 12 Apostles in the Gospel to call people to look at themselves in the mirror of the Gospel, to see what is happening to them, to call them to Christ, to repentance and back to a sense of community. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, quoting the Second Vatican Council, "The human person needs to live in society. Society is not for him an extraneous addition but a requirement of his nature. Through the exchange with others, mutual service and dialogue with this brethren, man develops his potential; he thus responds to his vocation." (No.1879)


In other words, a community of faith is not a luxury but a means of realizing our dignity and worth. We are called to build such a culture of compassion. Such a culture is not built from above but from below, especially through local churches.


If these words seem too idealistic to us, then maybe we have succumbed to the "new normal" of indifference and complacency about the needs of those "left behind."


The letter to the Ephesians speaks of the dignity of those blessed by God with faith in Jesus Christ, who were chosen to be believers and adopted children of God. But we were chosen also to bring others into the family of Christ. We are chosen, as Pope Francis repeatedly reminds us, to bring to the Lord people who are on the peripheries, peripheries that are not only geographical but social and psychological.


Perhaps an indifference to the missionary work of the church, to people on the peripheries and to those in distress is becoming "the new normal" for us. If so, we may need an Amos today.


That Amos may be you and me.


Msgr. Krempa is the retired pastor of St. Bridget of Ireland Church in Berryville.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018