Sunday, September 18, 2016

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Serve Only One

Today's readings remind us that we must help the poor and those who are taken advantage of by the rich, as well as not serving two masters.

In the first reading, we hear a warning to those who trample the needy and destroy the land of the poor.  We see today how the greed of corporations is harming the world, especially the land of the poor.  Global warming is having a huge affect on areas where the poor live  This must stop!  The Holy Father has even equated polluting the earth as sin. Those who abuse the poor are not in favor with God. Greed or Covetousness is a capital or deadly sin, as we all know. It goes against the Ninth Commandments which tells us not to covet our neighbor's partner (wife/husband) and our neighbor's goods. Doing so breaks the love and union we should all have as brothers and sisters.  We must love our neighbor as our self, Christ reminds us (Mark 12:31).

Living life is good, but when this means serving money and possessions, then this is not truly living life.  It is slavery. We become slaves to money and material possessions. This slavery leads to conflicts with our brothers and sisters.  It isolates us in society. Those who are filthy rich often get to this state by riding on the backs of those on the lower social ladder, if you will. How many times have we heard recently of banks such as Wells Fargo taking advantage of people in order to make big profits? Back in 2008 and 2009, Citi Bank and other financial institutions were caught misleading customers and offering huge amounts of credit knowing they could not repay it back, leading to huge profits. This is what the readings warns us against. We read the words of the rich who abuse the poor in order to live the "high life."  God tells us that He will never forget what they have done. This tells us how strongly against this behavior God is. Taking advantage of the poor, widows and the disadvantage is frowned upon by God (Exodus 22:22-27). While Christ does encourage that one is free of possessions, this does mean that He wants people to live in unhealthy and unsafe situations.

Our newly canonized saint, Mother Teresa was often attacked as a celebrator of poverty. These bigots revealed their ignorance of what poverty is in the eyes of Christianity. The Church does not celebrate the harsh conditions the poor face. What the Church posits as right-living is detachment from material goods (Matthew 6:19-21).  In other words, you can have a television, money, Galaxy Notes or I Phones, but do not be attached to them.  Do not worship them.  Do not define your life on them.  God is always with the poor for this very reason.  He does not find pleasure in their misery.  Instead, He finds pleasure in their humility and willingness to persevere despite the odds going against them (Luke 21:1-4).  God lifts up the poor as we are told in today's Psalm.  God who is above the heavens and earth is always looking out for each one of us, especially the poor.  We must praise Him always. God has not abandoned the poor and never will. He raises them up from the dust. From the "dunghill" or "pile of crap," the world has put on the poor, God rescues them. We must do our part as well by helping the poor the best we can. If they ask, we should give if we can. The clothes and items we may no longer use, we should donate to the poor. We show poverty in this action as well by showing that we are detached from material things.

There are many ways we can help. Even volunteering at a soup kitchen is a great way to help the poor. I love working at St. Francis House in Boston. Meeting the homeless there, sharing a meal with them and just being their friend brings me much joy. Sometimes someone gives me a scratch card from the lottery and if I win, I use the funds to treat a homeless person to some lunch or dinner. It is just an amazing experience and a moment to grow in grace. Our acts of love and compassion are not just "works" without merit, they serve as channels of grace and human development (Romans 2:6). We must also pray for others, as the second reading tells us.  Prayer is not only adoration to God, but also intercessory for others. Our Protestant friends often attack Catholics for praying to saints. They misunderstand the purpose, not seeing it as asking the saints to pray for us, which they do (Revelation 5:8, 8:3-4). We who are still on earth must pray for each other as well. The second reading tells us that this is "good and pleasing to God our savior." Our Savior Christ is the one mediator between God and men. Again, many of our Protestant friends attack Mary because we ask for her intercession. Asking Mary to pray for us does not take away from the role of Christ as the one mediator. Mary prays to Jesus for us. We see this at the Wedding of Cana (John 2:1-12). Mary gets Jesus to perform His first miracle after the waiters tell her that the wine had run out. Our Lady does not replace Christ. Rather, she intercedes to Him on our behalf and points us to His direction. Interestingly enough, Mary's last recorded words in the Bible are "do whatever He tells you" (John 2:5). This speaks volumes of Mary's role in the Church!  The second reading also reminds us that we have to respect authority.  Authority comes from God.  While we may face oppressive regimes and the like, we still have to respect the authority and find ways to work around or change the policies that we may find oppressive.  Recently, some sports athletes have been protesting the national anthem due to incidents involving police and minorities.  These kinds of actions are contrary to what the second reading tells us today.  We must respect the nation we live in and its authorities even if we disagree with them.

Lastly, in the Gospel, Jesus tells us of the dishonest steward who mismanages the master's money. We are told by Jesus not to be like this. If we mismanage what God lends to us, then we do not have a right to have anything at all. We cannot live life thinking that we can take advantage of God by serving two masters. We must serve only one: God. This is where detachment comes into play. God allows us to have material things  Earth and our very own bodies are material things. However, we must choose how to use them. We must not abuse the earth nor our bodies.  We must not abuse any material wealth that God allows in our life. Instead, we must use it please God.  St. Augustine gives us some insight on the parable we read today, he stated: "Why did the Lord Jesus Christ present this parable to us? He surely did not approve of that cheat of a servant who cheated his master, stole from him and did not make it up from his own pocket. On top of that, he also did some extra pilfering. He caused his master further loss, in order to prepare a little nest of quiet and security for himself after he lost his job. Why did the Lord set this before us? It is not because that servant cheated but because he exercised foresight for the future. When even a cheat is praised for his ingenuity, Christians who make no such provision blush. I mean, this is what he added, 'Behold, the children of this age are more prudent than the children of light.' They perpetrate frauds in order to secure their future. In what life, after all, did that steward insure himself like that? What one was he going to quit when he bowed to his master’s decision? He was insuring himself for a life that was going to end. Would you not insure yourself for eternal life? (Arthur A. Just, ed., Luke, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 255.)" We must insure ourself eternal life by doing what Christ asks us to do via His Catholic Church.  Satan is out and about trying to convince us that life is only here on earth and that it must be lived in vice (Matthew 4:1-11, 1 Peter 5:8).  We must rebuke him.

St. Gaudentius tells us, "The unrighteous steward signifies the devil, whose dominion over this world is nearing its end. Having wasted the Lord’s goods by stripping us of divine grace and friendship, he now works anxiously to make friends by deception and empty promises of forgiveness. While his ardor and foresight are worthy of imitation, his wicked and dishonest tactics are not. (Curtis Mitch and Scott Hahn, The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 137.)"  This is why at baptism we reject Satan's empty promises.  Material goods do not bring joy. They are not evil in themselves, it must be stressed. What becomes evil in them is how we make use of them. We must make use of our wealth to promote the Gospel and help others. Life is not about seeking pleasures or living in hedonism.  St. Jose Maria Escriva tells us, "What zeal people put into their earthly affairs: dreaming of honours, striving for riches, bent on sensuality! Men and women, rich and poor, old and middle-aged and young and even children: all of them alike.  When you and I put the same zeal into the affairs of our souls, we will have a living and working faith. And there will be no obstacle that we cannot overcome in our apostolic works! (The Way, 317)" We must put the same zeal, or even grearter than, what we put to obtaining wealth here on earth in regards to our souls.  There is no way we can serve two masters.  If you follow Christ, then you follow Christ.  He who tries to serve two masters is not worthy of the kingdom (Luke 9:62).  God is not fond of the lukewarm (Revelation 3:16). Let us help one another and keep focused on Christ.  May Jesus be praised!


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