Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading I Amos 8:4-7
Reading II 1st Timothy 2:1-8
Gospel Luke 16:1-13
There can be a confusing line in the Gospel today when Jesus says, “Make friends of yourself with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” There is a bit of a translation thought there, if you will, because what Jesus is really telling us is that the world’s riches, what the Jews in the first reading saw as the shekel and the ephah, what we as people from the United States of America see as the dollar and the cent and stock options and other countries have different currencies — all that wealth, all that money is dishonest. It’s dishonest because it s not true wealth. So what is true wealth? It’s a relationship with God. We are called to build up for ourselves treasures in heaven. So when Jesus is saying to us, “Make friends of yourself with dishonest wealth,” he is saying, “Have your money on earth to the form so that the poor will pray for you when your earthly bodies fail, and the poor will continue to pray for us and hopefully help us to heaven.” The poor will help us to see our true riches.
In the first reading, we hear how the Israelites were complaining because it was the feast of the new moon. It was a feast of the Lord, and on the feast of the Lord they are called to not sell anything, to not think of anything else but God. And yet they are thinking to themselves, “When will this be over? I want to make more money. I want to diminish the ephah so it will cost more for people to buy something so they will have to give us more bundles of wheat for sacrifice. And we want to increase the value of the shekel so again — it costs more and we will make more money.” The Israelites do not want to worship God. They are more concerned with buying the poor and when they give the poor some sandals, whether it is rejects their owners don’t want anymore, or maybe it is a new pair of sandals, and they mistreat the people who are in service to them, then the poor person says, “I think I’m going to leave. I don’t want to serve you anymore.” The owner can say to the poor, “You don’t know if another person is going to hire you. You don’t know if another person is going to give you sandals or even a stable to live in. So I may get angry with you, I might not feed you — but you really have it better here.” All it is, is a system of slavery.
In that particular excerpt: The real sickness is those who are slaves to money, those who can only think of themselves because they are blinded by their love of money. Because as Jesus said at the end of today’s Gospel, “You cannot serve both God and mammon.” You cannot serve both God and riches because you will be a slave to one and love the other, or you will despise the one and treasure the other. Unfortunately, there are still people who are slaves to their own self-interest, who are slaves more to the money they can make.
Is it convenient for stores to be open on Sunday? Sure it is. It is very convenient. Whether you are baking something and you think, “I need this flour or this sugar, so I will just run to the store.” Is it convenient to go out to eat rather than make dinner for your family? Yes. It is. You don’t have the preparation work, you don’t have the cleaning. But the ultimate reason convenience stores are open on Sunday is because it makes them more money. We see in some cases, whether it is Chick-fil-A or Hobby Lobby, that there are some stores that are closed on Sunday. Yes, it is a canny hiring tool because the store manager can say, “We can automatically give you a day off. We can give you a day with your family so you are more willing to work for us.” But there are some places that will not allow Hobby Lobby is their malls, or Chick-fil-A in their malls because it is a downturn on revenue. It is a decrease in revenue for the mall. For one store that makes a whole lot of money, and Chick-fil-A is very popular no matter where you go and is almost always busy, the malls do not want a business that is not going to be open on Sunday under their roof.
But it is not just about other people. The second reading in the Gospel today is not just about other people, it is about each and every one of us. We are called, each and every one of us, to serve the poor. We are not to glorify the economic system which encourages people to be in poverty whether it is through an unjust use of the welfare system, a welfare system that is necessary at this point in our lives, at this moment in our history, whether it is because people cannot work legitimately, or it is because they are the working poor. There are people who are in poverty who have two jobs or more who are looking to make their way in the world who still need the welfare system, who still need the charity of other people. And when we are charitable to the poor, anybody but particularly the poor, our hearts are open. One thing that the Lord says in the first reading today is: “I will not forget what they did to the poor.”
We have Catholic Charities in town, and yes, we have a collection of food we take up for them, and that is a wonderful thing. But a wonderful thing is also to go down to Catholic Charities and help those who are in need by working and being there with them when they come to pick up the food they need. When the homeless and the destitute of our town and surrounding areas go to Horizons Soup Kitchen, when people in need go to the two Ladies of Charity operations in town, the poor are all around us.
Jesus tells us that in the parable; the master commends the dishonest steward for covering himself after he gets fired. We all do that. We all cover ourselves when we realize the situation we are in because each and every one of us is a sinner. Each and every one of us is called to repentance. So when we realize the state that our life is in because we see even of the saints that they think of themselves as the biggest sinners — we run, we don’t walk, to the sacrament of reconciliation. We make our peace with God. We say, “I know I’ve done wrong. How can I cover myself so I can enter into heaven? How can I make this relationship with God my one priority?”
And God in his mercy accepts us. But as Christians we are called to share our blessings. That is what stewardship is all about: We are called to share our stewardship of time,our stewardship of treasure. And will we all serve each other in the same way? No. But we are called to action, each and every one of us.
And so, we pray as we go throughout our days, as we go throughout our lives, that we may really evaluate where we are in our faith. That we may evaluate where we are in our relationship with God and no matter how close, or how far we are from the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, that we run to the Holy Trinity and in doing so may our eyes be open for the stewardship that we need to live out, that our eyes may be open to see who we need to be serving and loving.
Father Adam Pritchard is parochial vicar at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy, IL.
(TASCAM DR 40 file 0057)