Msgr. Owen F. Campion: Pursuing What Matters

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Limestone shekel weights are seen inside the Israel Antiquities Authority gallery at the Museum of the Bible in Washington on November 15, 2017. (CNS Photo/Tyler Orsburn)

25 SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Amos 8:4-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-8; Luke 16:1-13

This weekend’s first reading is from the Book of Amos. This prophet, considered one of the minor prophets, was from Tekoa, a rural area of ​​Judea, about 10 miles from Jerusalem. Amos was a shepherd.

He was well acquainted with the religious traditions of his ancestors. He also had a sense of events happening beyond his own surroundings, even events happening far away in other countries. This awareness of his own religious heritage and of life beyond his own circumstances gives his book of only nine chapters a special quality.

Money dominates the message of this reading. The passage mentions ancient monetary units, such as the shekel, in circulation at the time. More importantly, he is highly critical of any quest to raise large sums of money, putting aside ethics and all other considerations. Amos insists that a higher standard always exists, bluntly and realistically, stating that a reward greater than monetary gain is to be preferred and 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 who was so close to the apostle Paul that Paul called him “beloved son”, although of course there is nothing to suggest that Timothy was literally the biological child. of the apostle. In fact, Timothy was the son of a Greek father and a devout Jewish mother. As his mother was Jewish, Timothy was Jewish according to the laws of Judaism.

Tradition has it that Timothy was the first bishop of the Christian community of Ephesus.

In this weekend’s reading, Timothy is asked to pray especially for leaders and those in authority. These personalities are particularly vulnerable to the temptation to give in to greed and self-interest.

The Gospel of Saint Luke provides the final reading. It is a parabola. In the story, an irresponsible manager fears the consequences if his employer discovers the manager’s mishandling of responsibilities. So the manager calls his employer’s debtors and orders them to “cook the books”, so to speak. If the loan was for 100, the manager said to change the amount to fifty. This arrangement would have been as unacceptable then as it would be today. The employer would have had every right to repudiate the manipulation by the manager of the sums due and to sanction the manager.

However, if the manager had insisted on the original numbers, he believed that he was losing the esteem of the community by appearing out of control of his own affairs and heartless in extorting what was due from those struck down by misfortune.

The reading warns that faithfulness to God, and the law of God, is the only standard.

Reflection

It’s easy to get confused trying to understand the world of ancient Jewish economics. They weren’t quite like modern finance, although there were some similarities. So, it is better not to elevate the employer of the parable told by the Gospel of Luke to too high a level of prestige nor to accuse or absolve the boss of fraud.

The bottom line is clear. Some things in life are more important than money. This is the theme of the reading of Amos. The theme reappears in the Gospel.

The central figure of the Gospel is the employer. The manager reduces the debts, even though he is motivated by the manager’s mishandling of the situation. The employer is merciful, willingly reducing his due in the face of a borrower’s difficulty in paying.

The story of the manager and the will of the debtors to join in the fraud is not, however, without a lesson. The line between genuine security and peace of mind and the growing search for the other is thin, blurry and easy to cross. Remember what’s important. Pursue what is important.


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