Saturday, September 22, 2007

Radix Bonorum

(25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, C)

Many times I’ve heard people say that they hate hearing sermons about money. But in this Mass we have no choice, because that’s what the Scriptures are about today. In the prophet Amos, we heard about some of the dangers and injustices that arise from money. In the Gospel we heard about the so-called “dishonest steward,” who, oddly enough, ends up being a good example of how we should behave wit the resources of this world.

The prophet Amos is very strong in his condemnation of those who abuse and take financial advantage of the poor. As a prophet, he has intense sympathy with the hurt that God feels on account of such injustice.

Amos paraphrases the thoughts of the oppressors who look forward to the end of the Sabbath that they can do more of their crooked business. They are so greedy that even the weekly rest of the Sabbath has become an unwelcome annoyance.

And we hardly need to do any fancy interpretation on Amos’s words. Our world isn’t much different. Economic injustices such as the gap between rich and poor, the enduring legacy of race and class privilege here in the United States, these sins are deep scars upon God’s creation. And they break out into further problems and occasions of injustice: war, migration, cycles of domestic violence and drug abuse.

Each and every one of us needs to have a consciousness of the need for economic justice, and to examine our conscience about our complicity in sins against the poor. As Amos puts it, God does not forget sins committed against them.

In contrast to the stern warnings of Amos, in the Gospel we have a parable of someone who used money well. It’s somewhat humorous too. This so-called “dishonest steward” is about to lose is job managing his master’s accounts. But before he’s fired, he goes, and, “cooking the books,” reduces the debts of two of his master’s business partners. By this little ruse, the steward accomplishes two things: First, he makes friends with his master’s debtors, so that, once he is out of a job, he has some friends to call on! Second, he makes his master look like a generous and kind man in the community. In business, that’s often worth just as much, if not more, than money.

In contrast to the merchants that Amos describes as robbing the poor and destroying community, the dishonest steward uses money to create and reinforce relationships in the community. He makes friends for when he falls on hard times, and he makes his master look good in the process.

And there’s a moral for us in this. We too ought to use whatever it is that we have—whether it be wealth, or the wealth of talent or time—not to build up just ourselves in selfishness, but to create relationships and build up community. Whatever it is we have, we need to be stewards of what God has given us in such a way as to build up the body of Christ. Yes, it’s a little altruistic, but it’s also practical. If we have used what we have to build relationships, we will have friends when we find ourselves without it.

Our model in all this is the Son of God himself. He had the greatest wealth of all—his divinity. And yet, as Paul tells us, he didn’t consider his divinity something to be clutched to himself. Instead, in the most perfect act of generosity there has ever been, he poured out his divinity into our humanity and became one of us. And he continues to let go of all that it means to be God by pouring his blood out in this Eucharist for the forgiveness of sins.

Let us take our Lord as our model, and pour out whatever treasure we have for the reconciliation of the world.

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