Memorial of Saint Irenaeus
“The lion roars — who will not be afraid! The Lord God speaks — who will not prophesy!” (Amos 3:8) Reading this morning’s passage from the Prophet Amos, I felt like I was preparing to take a test. The passage is made up of rhetorical questions. The prophet has a reason for asking all those questions. Rather than simply reading each question and going on to the next one, we need to ponder each question in an attempt to uncover the reality behind each scenario. I will restrict my comments to the lion and its roar. Many of us are familiar with the roar of the MGM lion which is the company’s trademark. So, let us think together. Why do lions roar?
The lion is the most social animal of all the wild feline species. They live in groups called prides. A lion’s roar is arguably the world’s most iconic animal sound. Roars can be heard from five miles away when conditions are right. The sound is deafening and awe-inspiring when heard from nearby Roars are used to signal territoriality and to locate distant pride members. Amos also presents roaring as a part of the hunt. Supposedly, a male lion roared to incite panic in a herd. This would create a stampede and the prey would run headlong into a trap set by the lionesses of the pride. The lion roars to protect the pride and to feed it. The lion’s roar terrifies the prey and reassures the pride.
The Lion of Judah roars, who will not listen up? The God of Israel speaks, who will not testify to His glory? When the Lion of Judah roars, what is his message? “You are my people. I made you. You belong to me.” When the God of Israel speaks, what does he say? “I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your offspring after you” (Gen. 17:7). Like Mary Magdalene, once we have seen the Lion of Judah and heard his message, we have one thing to do, spread the message, “I have seen the Lord” (Jn. 20:18). The content of this message does not come from extensive theological research. Rather, it flows from an encounter with the living Lord. May the Lord grant us the grace to be glad and to rejoice intensely because of the great glory and joy of Christ our Lord.
God has revealed his heart to us, who will not prophesy? This simple verse can serve as a window into the prophet’s understanding of his vocation and the place of prophecy in God’s salvific plan for the world. The lion’s roar and the Father’s voice are observable phenomena, which communicate hidden realities. The prophet has heard the voice of the Lord and shared sweet converse with Him. Filled with the flame of divine love, the prophet is sent to declare God’s loving mercy to the world. His full-throated proclamation is: “God has exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2: 9-11). It’s the crucified Lord that paved the way for the risen and glorified Lord. He who laid down his life in lamb-like surrender took it up again as the Lion of the tribe of Judah. When the Lion roars, may we find comfort in being under his watchful eye. When God speaks, may we tell others of his infinite love and mercy.