HOMILY FOR TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C
AGORSOR AARON AGBESHIE
AMOS 8:4-7/ PSALM 113/ 1TIMOTHY 2:1-8/ LUKE 16:1-13
THEME: JUSTICE IS FOR THE COMMON GOOD
The three readings of today have some bearing on Christian responsibilities in relation to social justice, politics and wealth.
In the First Reading the Prophet Amos, the prophet of social justice par excellence, denounces the rich who just cannot wait for the new moon festival or the Sabbath to be over, so that they may engage in business and make profits, cheating and exploiting the poor in the process. He threatens them with divine judgment. (Make references to local situation). What is even more astonishing is the fact that those who practice these injustices are members of the Christian Community. The situation has not changed much today. The Prophet Amos describes how some business men were so eager to enter into their dishonest practices that they could hardly wait until certain sacred times during which business was prohibited were over-the time of the Sabbath and the New Moon. They used every possible way to cheat their fellowman: dishonest measures, raising the prices, tampering with the scales, taking advantage of those who could not pay, selling the leavings, which were not worth anything at all. The Prophet saw this as all the more intolerable because the business man professed to be a member of the people of God and was cheating another member of the covenanted people. Justice according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their to God and neighbor. Justice towards men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good.” How do you deal with people when it comes to money whether you are a trader, a businessman or what have you? How do we treat our workers? Remember that the psalmist says that God hears the cry of the poor; he is close to the broken hearted (Psalm 34:18-19).
In the Second Reading we find an entirely different kind of person. His life is not to prey on others like a parasite described in the first reading. Rather his whole life is dedicated to others, to bring all men to the knowledge of the truth; bringing them the message of salvation. It is God’s will, he says, to bring all men to the knowledge of the truth, because he wants all to be saved. Paul has been appointed the herald, apostle and teacher of this message. He does not gain any personal profit from preaching the Gospel. In fact, he gave up everything which a person normally prizes: his convenience, the bonds which bound him to his people, a promising career as a Jewish Rabbi. For What? To suffer in order to bring others the Gospel (cf Philippians 3:7-14). He realized, however, that the work of evangelization belongs to every Christian. He asked, therefore, that the whole Christian community pray that men and women would be opened to the Gospel. We hope that there is some of the Apostle Paul in us; a dedication to the Gospel, even though it costs us very much.
In the Gospel, we find the kind of person we all have met. He is very clever. He knows what side his bread is buttered on. He can look ahead; weigh the odds and the land on both his feet. The master praised the man for his clever strategy in looking ahead to the future and making friends who would help him when he is out of job. The master praises the astuteness of the dishonest servant not because of his dishonesty but the clever way he goes about his activities. Jesus urges us to be clever strategists also, not in wheeling and dealing for profit here on earth but in order to win eternal life.
Finally, there is the person who thinks he can serve two masters. Jesus uses the example of a person who claims to make God the centre of his life and also makes an idol of money. We cannot serve the true God and at the same time have an idol. Do we find ourselves described in the readings of today’s Mass? The dishonest business man? The apostle of truth? The person who is clever in worldly things but a fool in the strategy which brings him to heaven? The double agent, serving God and at the same time having an idol that takes the place of God?
With the recent popularity of programmes like “I want to be rich”, we have seen some people become rather wealthy overnight. Those of us who have never won such monies often speculate about what we would do if we won. How would our lives change? Would becoming rich alter our values? Would we act differently if we suddenly had all the money we could want?
Strangely enough, such questions seem to be behind the puzzling story in today's Gospel, where Jesus appears to praise an unjust steward, who squanders his master's money, then proceeds with more shady dealings to insure his own security; his future security.
Scripture scholars are not exactly sure what this story is meant to show, but one explanation may be that Jesus wanted us to have our priorities straight about the use of wealth. Those who would be disciples may have to use money for the sake of the Kingdom, but they must never be controlled by it. Detachment is the key. The Kingdom must be our priority.
In sum, even if we never win the lottery, most of us are challenged in our use of money. We need it to insure security for ourselves and our families. We need it to further the ministries of our parishes and our Christian efforts at evangelization and education. Nevertheless, our priorities must be clear. The Kingdom calls us to be just stewards, always wary of being distracted by wealth and the need to acquire it. We must practice justice in our social life, in politics and in the acquisition of wealth.