Spirituality for Today – July 2016 – Volume 20, Issue 12

A Dresser of Sycamores

Rev. Raymond Petrucci

A photo of a .

A call from God cannot be ignored, but the receiver might question their suitability for the task set before him by God. When God called Amos to serve as a prophet, he humbly offered that he was a simple shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. God knew that Amos was a man of intelligence and strong convictions who would bring a forceful message about responsibility to God's covenant to the apostate Israelites. If the historian Arnold Toynbee is "prophetic" in his warning that the state of moral decay that precipitated the death of most of the civilizations in human history exists now in the United States, it is time for the emergence of an Amos here. Actually, a multitude of prophets will be needed.

Lost, wandering, and lacking a moral compass – these are terms that apply to a large segment of American society.

Good words do more than hard speeches, as the sunbeams, without any noise, will make the traveler cast off his cloak, which all the blustering winds could not do, but only make him bind it closer to him.

– Richard Leighton

The substance of what is needed to raise the standards that would ennoble society has been around for two thousand years. Each age requires those special individuals to whom people can turn for shepherding and guidance. Remembering Amos, as well as most other biblical instruments of God's beckoning, the persons who will arise tend to be those individuals who never imagined that they would be called. You and I and all believers ought to consider ourselves candidates for the task. As the scriptures state, God can take our weaknesses and turn them into strengths. Recognition of our weaknesses and the futility of our efforts in affecting change in others make room for the Holy Spirit to enter and expand our awareness of our need of God. This openness humbles us and encourages a newness of thought that widens our approach to solving problems in life. Often, we are not in touch with the effect of those stresses and disappointments that happen to us and evoke feelings of sadness or depression. The approach we require is not one of giving it all to God and walking away, but of partnering with God in establishing a life-strategy. Thus, we might address difficult people and difficult situations with, what might be called a secret power – the power of wisdom, understanding, and positive interaction. When we know what we want to achieve and in what environment we must operate in order to achieve it, we are able to apply those "good words" in lieu of "harsh speeches."

In defining our own prophetic mission, we could recall that the Old Testament prophets functioned as the conscience of Israel. They, typically, accused the people of breaking the covenant with God. The prophet admonished the wayward Israelites in order to inspire repentance and to seek the mercy of God. In reading the prophetic writings, one feels sympathy and compassion for their reluctance to accept the work ahead of them. Yet, they knew that the core of their being would rebel at ignoring or refusing the task given to them by God, This is a tribute to their faith and their intimate closeness to the God they worshipped. We, therefore, are shook to the foundation of our faith at the prospect of facing ridicule and hostility in reaching out to the masses with a message of repentance and turning back to God. Baptism has made us missionaries of the gospel and missionaries we must be.

I recommend an approach to spreading the Good News that does not begin with attempting to emulate Saint Paul or the numerous orders of missionaries that worked untiringly to break ground for the Church in new lands. I suggest following the words of Saint Francis de Sales, "Do little things with a desire to please God and they become big things. " Most of us exchange the moments of our lives within predictable boundaries and with a certain number of persons. It is to all of these that we can fashion our social intercourse in such a way as to witness to the Lord by working to awaken faith.