Sunday, September 19, 2010

You Cannot Serve Both God And Mammon.

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading I
Amos 8:4-7
Hear this, you who trample upon the needy
and destroy the poor of the land!
"When will the new moon be over," you ask,
"that we may sell our grain,
and the sabbath, that we may display the wheat?
We will diminish the ephah,
add to the shekel,
and fix our scales for cheating!
We will buy the lowly for silver,
and the poor for a pair of sandals;
even the refuse of the wheat we will sell!"
The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
Never will I forget a thing they have done!
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Psalm 113
R. Praise the Lord who lifts up the poor.
Praise, you servants of the LORD,
praise the name of the LORD.
Blessed be the name of the LORD
both now and forever.
R. Praise the Lord who lifts up the poor.
High above all nations is the LORD;
above the heavens is his glory.
Who is like the LORD, our God,
who is enthroned on high
and looks upon the heavens and the earth below?
R. Praise the Lord who lifts up the poor.
He raises up the lowly from the dust;
from the dunghill he lifts up the poor
to seat them with princes,
with the princes of his own people.
R. Praise the Lord who lifts up the poor.
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Reading II
1 Timothy 2:1-8
First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers,
petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone,
for kings and for all in authority,
that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life
in all devotion and dignity.
This is good and pleasing to God our savior,
who wills everyone to be saved
and to come to knowledge of the truth.
For there is one God.
There is also one mediator between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus,
who gave himself as ransom for all.
This was the testimony at the proper time.
For this I was appointed preacher and apostle
— I am speaking the truth, I am not lying —,
teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

It is my wish, then,
that in every place the men should pray,
lifting up holy hands, without anger or argument.
Luke 16:1-13
Jesus said to his disciples,
"A rich man had a steward
who was reported to him
for squandering his property.
He summoned him and said,
'What is this I hear about you?
Prepare a full account of your stewardship,
because you can no longer be my steward.'
The steward said to himself, 'What shall I do,
now that my master is taking
the position of steward away from me?
I am not strong enough to dig
and I am ashamed to beg.
I know what I shall do so that,
when I am removed from the stewardship,
they may welcome me into their homes.'
He called in his master's debtors one by one.
To the first he said,
'How much do you owe my master?'
He replied, 'One hundred measures of olive oil.'
He said to him, 'Here is your promissory note.
Sit down and quickly write one for fifty.'
Then to another the steward said,
'And you, how much do you owe?'
He replied, 'One hundred kors of wheat.'
The steward said to him,
'Here is your promissory note;
write one for eighty.'
And the master commended that dishonest steward
for acting prudently.
"For the children of this world
are more prudent
in dealing with their own generation
than are the children of light.
I tell you, make friends for yourselves
with dishonest wealth,
so that when it fails,
you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
The person who is trustworthy
in very small matters
is also trustworthy in great ones;
and the person who is dishonest
in very small matters
is also dishonest in great ones.
If, therefore, you are not trustworthy
with dishonest wealth,
who will trust you with true wealth?
If you are not trustworthy
with what belongs to another,
who will give you what is yours?
No servant can serve two masters.
He will either hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve both God and mammon."
The First Reading is taken from the book of Amos. He was a shepherd of Tekoa in Judah, who exercised his ministry as a prophet during the reign of Jeroboam (786-746 B.C.) At this time, there were two main groups of people in Israel. One group consisted of landowners and merchants; the other included everybody else. Amos condemns the first group for cheating the poor folks by giving short measure, and warns them that they were committing crimes against the Lord, and would result in divine retribution.

The rich folks knew that they had to keep holy the Sabbath day, and to celebrate the New Moon holyday, according to the Law of Moses. But they loved their profits, and were in a hurry to get back to selling again. The poor folks had to buy food to feed their families, and the merchants took advantage of them. They cheated them by tipping the scales, and gave them less food than they had paid for. The merchants made slaves of those who could not pay their bills, using the money they got from other poor folks. They sold the poor wheat without sifting out the chaff. The prophet warns them that this behavior would result in divine retribution.

In today’s Second Reading, Saint Paul is writing to his disciple Timothy, now himself a bishop, answering a question that Timothy must have raised. Paul says that it is right to pray for those in authority so that everyone, pagans, Jews, and Christians alike, would be able to lead quiet and peaceful lives. It is a good thing to pray for the people and for the rulers. Such prayers are pleasing to God, who saves from the power of sin all those who come to him through Our Lord Jesus. God wants to save all people from the power of sin. He wants everyone to come to know the truth, and be saved.

People may believe in many gods, but there is only one true God. There is only on mediator between God and his people, Jesus Christ, who shares both divine and human nature, and who took upon himself the burden of our sins, and died on the cross as a ransom for us, his sisters and brothers.

God called Paul to be an apostle of the Lord Jesus. He was sent to proclaim the gospel to all people, both Jews and pagans. It seems that there were some in Ephesus, where Timothy was bishop, who doubted the authority of Paul. He insists that God has appointed him to be an apostle, and to preach the good news not only to the Jews but to the Gentiles. It is his prayer, then, than everywhere the people should lift up their hands in prayer, in faith, and in truth.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples the parable of the rich man and his steward. The steward, who was the manager of the property, had wasted his master’s assets, and had been careless in the way he performed his duties. He also may have been guilty by using his master’s goods for himself. Now, the master has asked him to hand over his account ledger, because he was about to lose his job.

Now, the steward has to think about how he’s going to live from now on. He’s not strong enough to dig ditches, and he is too proud to become a beggar. But he’s clever, and it doesn’t take long to develop a plan. “I know what I’m going to do after I’m fired!”

What he does is to call on the people who owe rent to the master, which they would pay not in money but in goods. The steward leads them to believe that he has persuaded the master to reduce the amount of their debts. To one: “You owe my master 100 measures of olive oil? Write a new note for 50.” To another: “You owe 100 kors (1000 bushels) of wheat? Write a new note for 80.” The master praises the steward, not for being honest – which he isn’t – but for being sensible. He has thought about his future, and has made prudent plans. For the people of this world manage their affairs more sensibly than those who belong to the Kingdom of God.

Jesus goes on to say: Use the wealth of this world to make friends, by sharing what you have to help people who are in need. Then, those you have helped will welcome you to their home in heaven. Someone who is responsible in small matters will be responsible in larger ones; and someone who is irresponsible in small matters will also be irresponsible in larger ones. In other words, if God can trust one of his people to look after other people’s spiritual needs, God can trust him with heavenly riches.

Conclusion: No one can serve two masters. You can be completely loyal to only one. No one can have profit – or pleasure – or power as their master, and at the same time, worship the One True God.

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