September 14, 2016 // Uncategorized
Some things are more important than money
Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
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.
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 his keen knowledge not only of religious tradition but also of life far beyond his own situation, gives his book of only nine chapters a special quality.
Money dominates the message of this reading. Indeed, 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, all ethics 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 the 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 Paul referred to him as “beloved son”, although, of course, nothing suggests that Timothy literally 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.
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 persons in authority. They 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 his mishandling of his responsibility. So the manager calls his employer’s debtors and orders them to tamper with the notes, so to speak. If the loan was for was for 100, the manager says 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.
Had the manager insisted on the original figures, however, he would have lost the regard of the community by appearing to be out of control of his own business — and heartless for extracting what was owed from people with bad luck.
Mercy was more important than recovering the money owed as debts.
It is easy to become lost and confused in the world of ancient Jewish economics, quite unlike modern finances. Then again, some similarities pertain. So it is better not to elevate the employer in the parable recounted by Luke’s Gospel to too high a level of prestige. Certainly, the irresponsible manager cannot be excused of fraud.
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 his own 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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