FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)
Amos 8:4-7 | Psalm 113:1-2, 4-6, 7-8 | 1 Timothy 2:1-8 | Luke 16:1-13
Following our lord is not easy. He never promised it would be. This week we will reflect on the today's teaching. It's a hard one, a call to be selfless. Our readings urges us to care and compassion for the poor and to pray for others.
In his book Feminine Faces, Clovis Chappell wrote that when the Roman city of Pompeii was being excavated, the body of a woman was found mummified by the volcanic ashes of Mount Vesuvius. Her position told a tragic story. Her feet pointed toward the city gate, but her outstretched arms and fingers were straining for something that lay behind her. The treasure for which she was grasping was a bag of pearls. Chappel said, “Though death was hard at her heels, and life was beckoning to her beyond the city gates, she could not shake off their spell…But it was not the eruption of Vesuvius that made her love pearls more than life. It only froze her in this attitude of greed.”
The exploitation of the poor is central to the message of the eighth-century prophets. The prophet Amos (Carried by God) arrived in the prosperous kingdom of Israel amidst the glitter of political and religious life. He saw a world of injustice and exploitation of the poor where people where selling even the “sweepings of the wheat”. To modern readers this may seem like a minor, even mysterious point, but it is central to biblical law. In fact, God decreed in Leviticus: "“When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. It is the same with your grape crop—do not strip every last bunch of grapes from the vines, and do not pick up the grapes that fall to the ground. Leave them for the poor and the foreigners living among you. I am the Lord your God" (19:9-10). So many are driven to get rich. There's nothing wrong in getting rich especially if one earned the money without any fraud or illegal method. Catholics can be, and sometimes are, very rich. But, is it possible that no one can really become rich without many others being made or kept poor? In over 2,000 years of civilisation and religion, hardly anything has changed. We hear enterprising persons say, “We can charge double or triple if we call our product ‘new,’ or ‘organic,’ or ‘local’” or “Let’s charge higher interest rates, and levy ‘membership’ fees on credit recovery offers” or “The poor will never see it for what it really is.” To fail to care for the poor when one can reasonably do so amounts to a form of theft. Our excess belongs to the poor because God intends all the goods of the earth for all the people of the earth. Injustice to the little ones, according to prophet Amos, is a big part of what is causing the coming destruction. Indeed, Mahatma Gandhi was dead right when he said that there is enough on Earth for everybody's need, but not enough for everybody's greed.
Early African converts to Christianity were earnest and regular in private devotions. Each one reportedly had a separate spot in the thick growth of shrubs where he would pour out his heart to God. Over time the paths to these places became well worn. As a result, if one of these believers began to neglect prayer, it was soon apparent to the others. They would kindly remind the negligent one, "Brother, the grass grows on your path."
Is prayer to be a priority in your life and of the Church? Prayer is not a nicety, but a necessity. The apostle Paul, in his Letter to Timothy, urges that prayer of all kinds must “be made for all people”. The primary reason that we have many different prayers throughout the Holy Mass is because God wants us to pray for all kinds of people on all kinds of occasions. He wants all of our prayers to be the result of overflowing hearts that have so much to say. Sometimes we get into a rut of prayer that is centered on us and what we want and need. We pray for ourselves but forget to pray for others. We ask God for stuff but forget to thank him for the stuff he has already given us. One easy way to remember the different elements of God-pleasing prayer is to follow what is called the A-C-T-S model. Adoration. Contrition. Thanksgiving. Supplication. Just as important as HOW we pray is WHO we pray for. Paul urges: pray for everyone. Praying for everyone obviously means that we exclude no one.If we desire to see our nation transformed, we need to pray. If we desire to see loved ones transformed, we need to pray. If we are going to be obedient to the Lord and effective as a church it is critical that we be a praying church. Let us be a people of prayer. So, what should we do when we gather for Holy Mass? Expect to be entertained? Motivated? Moved emotionally? Paul tells us: pray. Pray for everyone – because it is God’s will that all people be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.
Filipinos are setting up community pantries to aid those left most vulnerable by the pandemic. Stingy Stephen, a notorious miser was called on by the organizer of the community pantry. “Sir,” said the fund-raiser, “our records show that despite your wealth, you’ve never once given to our drive.” Stingy Stephen replied, “Do your records show that I have an elderly mother who was left penniless when my father died? “Do your records show that I have a disabled brother who is unable to work? Do your records show I have a widowed sister with ten children who can barely make ends meet?” “No, sir,” replied the embarrassed volunteer. “Our records don’t show those things.” “Well, I don’t give to any of them, so why should I give anything to you?”
In our Gospel, Jesus tells us to use our money and other resources in ways that will help us in eternity. The parables shows that compassion for the poor in this life leads to eternal rewards. In the kingdom, the poor will be rich and can easily welcome us into their eternal homes. Presumably they will also serve as witnesses on behalf of those who helped them. But the more significant truth is that God is the ultimate source of blessings, and God will know whether we cared about the poor, the sick, and the vulnerable. God will know whether we used our resources to help. Our wealth, however, provide us with the opportunity to help, and Jesus makes it clear that he wants us to do that. We are tempted, though, to love money too much and to hold it too closely. "God is blesses us abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that we need, and plenty left over, we will abound in every good work by sharing with others" (2 Corinthians 9:8). Whenever We are tempted not to give to the needy, let us be reminded that we are meant to be part of the flow of abundance: to open our hands to receive what we need and share what we have with others. <enrique,ofs>
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum