Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land, saying, “When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?”— buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat.
The Lord has sworn by himself, the Pride of Jacob: “I will never forget anything they have done.” — Amos 8:4-7, NIV
Today’s lectionary reading in Amos echoes many questions posed in the early stages of the pandemic: “When will drivers be back on the road, using gas and oil again? When will the lockdown be over, so we can open our restaurants again? When can we send children to school?”
The apparent American inability to sacrifice a little for those the most at risk broke my heart. And when I read this passage in Amos, I seethed at the politicians, investors, corporations, and churches who were so willing to let the pandemic last as long as it has by favoring profits over public health. It’s a forgiveness I’m still learning to give out.
In a world that’s reopening and getting rid of most previous covid restrictions, life feels more “normal.” We’re so eager to move on. But with the omicron variant looming, we’re not quite there yet.
It’s surely must be close to what the Israelites felt like, waiting for the savior, and as I’m increasingly aware, waiting in uncertainty is a condition of human suffering that every generation must bear.
December 10 is also International Human Rights Day, when we “celebrate” the United Nations officially adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The declaration emerged out of a similar time of global upheaval, articulated in the document’s preamble as follows:
“Disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people…” [emphasis mine]
Human rights violations unfortunately extend far beyond “boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales,” mentioned in Amos but regardless, we continue to hope and pray for the “advent” of a more fair, safe, and free world.
Let us give thanks for the holy helpers and worthy warriors who continue to work towards a better human realm. Let us be patient and generous with our time. Let us keep others safe, love them, and love the Lord. Let us be more forgiving of falling short. Amen.
Sarah Henkel is an MPH student at Harvard Chan School of Public Health.