September 20, 2013

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe first reading for this weekend is from the Book of Amos. This prophet, regarded as one of the Minor Prophets, was from Tekoa, a rural area of Judea. It was about 10 miles from Jerusalem. Amos was a shepherd, and obviously he knew well the religious traditions of his ancestors.

He also had a sense of events occurring beyond his own environment, even events happening in other lands.

His pastoral occupation and keen knowledge not only of tradition, but also of life far beyond his own situation, gives his book of only nine chapters a special quality.

The reading for this weekend is quite frankly monetary in its wording. It speaks of ancient units of currency, such as the shekel. It also is highly critical of any quest to gather great sums of money, insisting that a higher standard, a higher reward, exists in life.

For its second reading, the Church presents the First Letter to Timothy. Early Christian history, including that of the Apostolic Era, includes the names of deeply committed pioneer converts to Christianity.

Timothy was one of these converts. He was so close to the Apostle Paul that Paul referred to him as “beloved son,” although of course nothing suggests that Timothy literally was the Apostle’s biological child.

Son of a Greek father and a devout Jewish mother, and therefore Jewish under the laws of Judaism, Timothy became a Christian through Paul’s influence. Tradition is that Timothy was the first bishop of the Christian community in Ephesus.

In this weekend’s reading, Timothy is asked especially to pray for rulers and other persons in authority. Such officials especially are vulnerable to the temptation of yielding to greed and ambition.

St. Luke’s Gospel supplies the last reading. It is a parable. An irresponsible manager fears the results if his employer discovers the manager’s mishandling of his duty. So he called his employer’s debtors and ordered them to reduce the amount owed. In fact, he cancelled his own commission, but obviously the commission was excessive.

This arrangement would have been as unacceptable then as it would be now. The employer would have had every right to repudiate the manager’s bold discounting of the amounts owed. If the manager had insisted on the original figures, he would have been upholding the outrageous commission, but he would have lost the regard of the community and appeared to be out of control of his own business.

In the end, for him, saving honor was more important than collecting the money owed as debts.

The message is clear. The frenzy of doing the world’s business has its pitfalls and unfairness.

Reflection

Money is a fact of life.

Ancient Jewish economics at times were quite unlike modern economics, but then again certain similarities occurred. For this reason, it is better not to elevate the employer in the parable recounted by Luke’s Gospel to too high a level of prestige. Few are tempted, of course, to lionize the irresponsible manager.

Rather, the bottom line is that things in life are more important than money. It is the theme of the reading from Amos. It seems a truism, however, little else in contemporary life could be more relevant than the Church’s caution in these readings not to stake our future, or measure our success, in monetary terms.

The line between genuine security and peace of mind on the one hand, and grasping for more and more on the other is easy to cross. It is easy to rationalize that struggling to obtain more material assets is in fact only an effort to be financially secure.

Wise and experienced, reinforced by the inspiration of God, the Church offers the Scriptures to us as a warning. Remember what is important. Pursue what is important. †

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