Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading: Luke 16:1-13
The 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 knew well the religious traditions of his ancestors. He also had a sense of events occurring beyond his own environment, even events happening far away in other lands. This awareness of his own religious heritage and of life beyond his own situation gives his book of only nine chapters a special quality.
Money dominates this readingâ€™s message. The passage mentions ancient units of currency such as the shekel, in circulation at the time. Most importantly, it is highly critical of any quest to gather great sums of money, putting ethics and all other considerations aside. Amos insists that a higher standard always exists, bluntly and realistically stating that a reward greater than monetary gain is to be preferred and is available.
For its second reading, the Church presents the First Letter to Timothy. Early Christian history presents Timothy as a deeply committed pioneer convert to Christianity who was so close to the apostle Paul that Paul referred to him as â€śbeloved sonâ€ť, although of course nothing suggests that Timothy literally was the apostleâ€™s biological child. In fact, Timothy was the son of a Greek father and a devout Jewish mother. Since his mother was Jewish, Timothy was Jewish under the laws of Judaism.
Tradition has it that Timothy was the first bishop of the Christian community in Ephesus.
In this weekendâ€™s reading, Timothy is asked to pray particularly for rulers and persons in authority. These figures especially are vulnerable to the temptation of yielding to greed and self-interest.
St. Lukeâ€™s Gospel supplies the last reading. It is a parable. In the story, an irresponsible manager fears the consequences if his employer discovers the managerâ€™s mishandling of responsibility. So, the manager calls his employerâ€™s debtors and orders them â€śto cook the booksâ€ť, so to speak. If a loan was for was for 100, the manager said to change the amount to 50.Â
This arrangement would have been as unacceptable then as it would be now. The employer would have had every right to repudiate the managerâ€™s manipulation of the amounts owed and discipline the manager.
Had the manager, however, insisted on the original figures, he thought that he loses the regard of the community by appearing to be out of control of his own business and heartless by extracting what was owed from people struck by bad luck.
The reading admonishes that fidelity to God, and Godâ€™s law, is the only standard.Â
It is easy to be confused trying to understand the world of ancient Jewish economics. They were not altogether like modern finances, although some similarities pertain. So, it is better not to elevate the employer in the parable recounted by Lukeâ€™s Gospel to too high a level of prestige or to accuse or absolve the manager of fraud.
The bottom line is clear. Some things in life are more important than money. It is the theme of the reading from Amos. The theme reappears in the Gospel.
The central figure in the Gospel is the employer. The manager reduces the debts, even if prompted by the managerâ€™s mishandling of the situation. The employer is merciful, willingly reducing what is his due in view of a borrowerâ€™s difficulty in paying.
Not without a lesson, however, is the story of the manager and of the debtorsâ€™ willingness to join in the fraud. The line between genuine security and peace of mind and grasping for more and more on the other is thin, blurred, and easy to cross.Â
Remember what is important. Pursue what is important.Â
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