September 20, 2019

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe first reading for Mass on this weekend is from the Book of Amos. Regarded as one of the minor prophets, he was from Tekoa, a rural area of Judea. It was about 10 miles from Jerusalem.

Amos was a shepherd, and obviously he knew well the religious traditions of his ancestors. He also had a sense of events occurring beyond his own environment, even events happening in other lands.

His pastoral occupation and keen knowledge not only of tradition, but also of life far beyond his own situation, gives his book of only nine chapters a special quality.

The reading for this weekend is quite frankly monetary in its wording. It speaks of ancient units of currency, such as the shekel. It also is highly critical of any quest to gather great sums of money, insisting that a higher standard, a higher reward, exist in life.

For its second reading, the Church presents a passage from St. Paul’s First Letter to Timothy. Early Christian history, including that of the apostolic era, includes the names of deeply committed pioneer converts to Christianity.

Timothy was one of these converts. He was so close to St. Paul that the Apostle referred to him earlier in the letter as “my true child in faith,” although of course nothing suggests that Timothy literally was the Apostle’s biological child (1 Tm 1:2). The son of a Greek father and a devout Jewish mother, and therefore Jewish under the laws of Judaism, Timothy became a Christian through Paul’s influence. According to tradition, Timothy was the first bishop of the Church in Ephesus.

In this weekend’s reading, Timothy is asked especially to pray for rulers and for other persons in authority. Such officials especially are vulnerable to the temptations of greed and ambition.

St. Luke’s Gospel supplies the last reading. It is a parable. An irresponsible manager fears the results if his employer discovers the manager’s mishandling of his duty. So, the manager called his employer’s debtors and ordered them to reduce the amount they owed. In fact, he cancelled his own commission, but obviously the commission was excessive.

This arrangement would have been as unacceptable then as it would be now. The employer would have had every right to repudiate the manager’s bold discounting of the amounts owed. If the manager had insisted on the original figures, he would have been upholding the outrageous commission, but he would have lost the regard of the community and appeared to be out of control of his own business.

In the end, for him, saving honor was more important than collecting the money owed as debts.

The message is clear. The frenzy of doing the world’s business can create confusion and dishonesty.

Reflection

Money is a fact of life, interwoven with necessity. The Gospel reading informs us that any of us, now as in ancient times, can be consumed with acquiring money, but also obsessed with accumulating more than we need

In this striving to accumulate more and then more, we can veer away from the straight and narrow in many ways.

In the late 19th century, Pope Leo XIII became the first in a series of popes leading up to the present day who have extensively and precisely looked upon modern practices in economics and industry in the light of the Gospel. They were motivated in this by their desire to defend the absolute dignity of every human being when judging the propriety or impropriety of business and monetary matters.

Since Leo XIII, each pontiff has made great contributions to the moral analysis of finance and commerce on a broad scale and for the individual person.

The world would be a better place if these papal admonitions were heeded.

Morality very much affects business and personal instincts regarding money. This papal tradition is a guide Catholics can trust and the world needs. †

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