Famine on the Word of God

Irish_potato_famine_Bridget_O'DonnelLast Friday, our nation celebrated our independence on July 4th. The readings at Mass for that day came from the 8th chapter of the book of Amos and are worthy of our reflection. The following reflection is based on a blog post from Msgr. Charles Pope.

Yes, days are coming, says the Lord GOD,
when I will send famine upon the land:
Not a famine of bread, or thirst for water,
but for hearing the word of the LORD.
Then shall they wander from sea to sea
and rove from the north to the east
In search of the word of the LORD,
but they shall not find it.
– Amos 8:11-12

The Prophet Amos speaks of a “famine for hearing the word of the LORD.” Before this, he warned Israel about a number of sins that were present among the people. The prophet claims that the poor were being neglected and trampled over, the Sabbath was being neglected because of the desire to make a profit, people were cheating each other by altering their scales, and he accuses them of selling the poor as slaves for a bit of silver or a pair of sandals. Earlier in the book, Amos also chastises the people for a number of sexual sins, as well.

God speaks to the people of Israel through the prophet that if their sins continue, they will no longer hear the word of God. Their sinfulness will make them deaf in their relationship with God and cause them to search for the truth. However, without God’s guidance they will not find what they are searching for.

Msgr. Pope says that a famine for the Word of God exists in three ways:

  1. First of all, when many people insist on sinful, unjust, and evil practices, the Word of the Lord begins to sound obnoxious and they refuse to read or hear it.
  2. Second, we see a kind of induced famine caused by those who collectively work to eliminate the Word of God from the public square.
  3. The third form of famine, is subtle. This is the famine of the Word of God that occurs on account of silence from the pulpits.

Further Reading

Original Post from Msgr. Pope
Amos Chapter 8

Discussion Questions

  1. The prophet mentions a famine of the Word of God caused by the abundance of sin. As Msgr. Pope says, “The Word of the Lord begins to sounds obnoxious and they refuse to read it or hear it.” Do you think there is currently a “famine of the Word of God” in our culture? What would you cite as examples?
  2. The famine of the Word of God exists because of sin. The prophet mentions sins against the poor, primarily and also a lack of respect for the Sabbath. Msgr. Pope says, “Many starve themselves from the Word because it is no longer a food that is palatable to them. They would rather dine on the strong wine of this world that numbs them from the pangs of their own consciences. Or perhaps they would rather eat the Twinkies and other junk food of pop culture, which excuses and even celebrates bad behavior.”
    1. If the Prophet Amos were to describe the sins of modern Western culture, what might he say today?
    2. Are the sins of the modern world the same as those of the prophet’s day? Why or why not?
  3. The second form of the famine described is the elimination of the Word of God from the public square. 
    1. With the many public debates about religious freedom currently ongoing, what role should the Word of God have in the public square?
    2. Christians are often told to “stop shoving your Bible down other people’s throats.” With reactions such as this, what should be the proper response? What might cause this reaction?
  4. The third form of famine described is the lack of the Word proclaimed properly from church pulpits. Msgr. comments that he often hears of complaints that homilies are too vague, and this is caused by fear on the part of the clergy. 
    1. Is this true in your experience? Do you find a lack of focus on the Word in everyday preaching and teaching?
    2. Msgr. Pope mentions that people tend to vehemently disagree with things that priests might preach about, and this causes fear amongst the presbyterate. What kinds of things can be done to ease those concerns and fears?
  5. How do we ensure that a famine of the Word of God doesn’t exist in our own life and in our own families? How do we work to correctly promote a love for the Word of God?