September 16, 2016

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, about 10 miles from Jerusalem. Amos was a shepherd.

He obviously 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 of religious tradition and life far beyond his own situation gives his book of only nine chapters a special quality.

Money dominates the message of this reading. The passage even mentions ancient units of currency, such as the shekel. Most importantly, it is highly critical of any quest to gather great sums of money where all ethics are put aside. It insists that a higher standard always exists, and it bluntly states that a reward greater than monetary gain is to be preferred, and it is available.

For its second reading, the Church presents a passage from St. Paul’s First Letter to Timothy. Early Christian history presents Timothy as a deeply committed pioneer convert to Christianity.

Actually, Timothy was so close to the Apostle Paul that the Apostle referred to him as “beloved son,” although of course nothing suggests that Timothy was the Apostle’s biological child. To the contrary, Timothy was the son of a Greek father and a devout Jewish mother. As his mother was Jewish, Timothy was Jewish under the laws of Judaism.

According to tradition, Timothy was the first bishop of the Church in Ephesus.

In this weekend’s reading, Timothy is asked especially to pray for rulers and people in authority. They are especially vulnerable to the temptation of greed and ambition.

St. Luke’s Gospel supplies the last reading. It is a parable about an irresponsible manager who fears the results if his employer discovers his mishandling of his duties. So the manager calls his employer’s debtors and orders them to tamper with the notes in order to curry favor with them. If the loan was for 100, the manager said to change the amount to 50.

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 manipulation of the amounts owed.

Reflection

It is easy to become lost and confused in the world of ancient economics, which was quite unlike modern finances.

Rather than focus on the manipulation of the amounts owed, the Gospel calls us to focus on mercy instead.

The bottom line is that some things in life are more important than money. It is the theme of the reading from Amos. The central figure in the Gospel is the employer. The manager is either misguided or dishonest or both.

The manager reduces the debts, even if prompted by the manager’s mishandling of the situation. This is the message, the employer’s mercy.

Not without a lesson, however, is the story of the manager and of the debtors’ willingness to join in the fraud. 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 so easy for humans to rationalize, to cut corners, to succumb to fear.

Remember what is important. Pursue what is important. †

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