We are invited to do some deep considering with the readings for this Sunday’s
liturgy. They are “hard sayings” for those who cheat, act unjustly, and misuse
all of God’s gifts entrusted to them. They are encouragements to those who
experience all good things as coming from and leading back to the One God.
We pray with the sense of wealth which God blesses us. We pray with the joy
of being just in our dealings. We can pray as “children of the light” who
deal with the things of the world as having an importance only as part of
God’s relationship with us. We are tempted to tip the balance, thumb the
scales, see what deals we can swing, but as “children of the light” we feel
also the call to personal justice.
Our small community of six has decided to give to an outreach of our local
parish clothing from our closets. I just spent twenty minutes trying to decide
whether or not I could get along with just three Green Bay Packer sweat shirts
rather than five. It is quite embarrassing to be figuring whether this is
a fall or spring jacket. I find I can talk myself into and out of every article
of clothing I have. I did not cheat to have these things, but I am feeling
a bit unjust by keeping them locked up for a more rainy, cold, cool, damp
or other days which will be perfect for this shirt or that hat. Living justly
just isn’t not cheating.
Amos, from whom we hear in today’s First Reading, never wanted to be a prophet
in Israel. Instead God has called him to do the dirty work of confronting
those who have done the dirtier work of cheating and pretending to be religiously
God has shared five “vision” or dreams with Amos. The first two were about
destruction of Israel, to which Amos begs that they not happen. God relents.
The rich continue oppressing the poor and so we hear words from God which
accompany the fourth vision.
Amos sees a dish of ripe fruit. God tells him that Israel is ripe for the
plucking. Ripeness when left to itself devolves into rottenness. What we
hear are indictments against those merchants who act unjustly towards their
customers. This time God means what the words state. God will remember every
heavy thumb print on every scale and Amos has to deliver this message without
trying to talk God out of it.
The Gospel is comprised of a parable and some related sayings which need
some clarifying, though for his listeners, they were quite clear.
The steward has been cheating his master and the matter has come to light.
He knows he is going to be fired. Very prudently he makes deals with those
who owe his master various amounts of money. By cleverly reducing their debts,
he increases his own chances that the debtors will be good to him when he
is jobless. The master hears about this too and at least approves of his
abilities to take care for his future. The “future” is what this parable
is all about.
There is a difference between how people of this generation deal with their
futures than do the “children of light” deal with their futures. The future
is seen in terms of years or in terms of eternity. The “children of light”
invest in a just relationship with the “master” who has given them both goods
and stewardship regarding these gifts. Stewardship implies care, proper usage,
sharing them and always a reverence for the gifts as belonging to the “master.”
Jesus then says something very strange at first hearing. His listeners are
to make friends with dishonest wealth which will fail to last and when his
listeners experience that emptiness they will be welcomed into true wealth.
“Very small matters” when tended to will result in being entrusted with greater
ones. These “very small matters” are the large experiences of faith which
the ways of the world would call insignificant. We are offered so many opportunities
to act justly, love tenderly and do those things which are of virtue, but
not earthshaking or spectacular in the play of the future. They will probably
not be remembered by history, but God will remember these too for eternity.
Serving two masters will divide and conquer the heart and soul. Jesus is
asking his hearers to decide whether he will be their “master” who has given
gifts and who will return, or something material which is a “big thing” now,
but will leave when time runs out. Perhaps it is better said, whether it
will be a “what” or a “who” will master us. “Whats” divide, need protection.
The “Who” of God does the uniting and providing. As “children of the light”
we take the small steps of faith and justice and God gives the increase.
The more just we are, the more opportunities and delights there are as God
entrusts us with even more sensitivity and larger hearts, undivided.
Now I have to return to giving away my little private, dividing-my-heart
jackets and sweaters. By writing this, I have almost talked myself into doing
it easily. It does take some intimacy with Jesus and his ways. The disciples
had it and the more they had, the less they needed of sweat shirts. Poco
“Though our Lord Jesus Christ was rich, he
became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.”