September 19, 2013

Homily for the Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Director, La Salette Shrine
Enfield, NH

Today’s readings couldn’t be any clearer. The first reading and the Gospel have the same message, and it is blunt: greed is evil. It’s not money that’s evil, not private property, but the “relationship” with money and possessions that interferes with the more important relationships—with other persons and with God.

Coincidentally, one of the most direct statements on this subject in the New Testament is from 1 Timothy, though not in the passage found in today’s second reading. It comes four chapters later, in 1 Timothy 6:10: “The love of money is the root of all evils.”

The dishonest steward of the parable loves money. He is dishonest throughout. He uses his position not only to squander his master’s property, but also to save himself from being put out on the street, as either a day-laborer (digging) or a beggar. From beginning to end he is thinking only of himself. He is praised for one thing only: his prudence.

There are two “morals of the story.” The one that gets all the attention is the second one: “You cannot serve God and mammon.”

The first is a little more complex. “Make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth [the Greek original text here has “mammon of iniquity”], so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”

I am reminded of the Roman centurion, whom one would normally have expected to be hostile to the Jews, on whose behalf the local people appealed to Jesus in Luke’s Gospel, because he loved the Jewish people and had built their synagogue.

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta was criticized for accepting generous donations from persons of dubious reputation. Her focus, however, was on the poorest of the poor and her mission to them. We cannot say how consciously or deliberately “dishonest wealth” was being used by the donors to “make friends” in view of being “welcomed into eternal dwellings.” We cannot exclude it either.

But the point doesn’t concern someone else. It concerns us. Both “morals” touch our lives. From a negative point of view, “serving mammon” is a disastrous life choice. From a positive point of view, we are told that to use “mammon” wisely—with the inspired wisdom of “the children of light”—will be viewed kindly by the Lord.

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