September 18, 2016
by Richard J. Hauser, S.J.
Creighton University's President's Office
click here for photo and information about the writer

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 135

Amos 8:4-7
Psalm 113:1-2, 4-6, 7-8
1 Timothy 2:1-8
Luke 16:1-13

Praying Ordinary Time

My reflection upon today’s scripture readings is  influenced by daily reports of violence occasioned by inter-religious conflicts.  

We Christians, together with Jews and Muslims, share a belief in one God -- the Father Almighty creator of heaven and earth. And we also share the belief  that this God who creates us loves us.  And finally we share the belief that our God's most important commandment is showing love for God by serving our neighbor -- especially our neighbors most in need.  

Authentic religious practice always enhances human life.

Whenever any of us preach hatred and persecution of neighbor we are not within our authentic Jewish, Christian, Muslim tradition. Sadly, history witnesses each religion has been guilty of such atrocities. Sadly, the situation perdures today. Persecution and killing in the name of God is the greatest religious scandal of our time.

Each religion charts a specific path within its tradition to live out God's  command to love our neighbor. Paul’s letter to Timothy reflects God’s universal love within the Christian worldview:  God “wills everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  Paul explains that this salvation occurs through the man Jesus Christ “who gave himself as a ransom for all.”  Please note that no one excluded from God’s loving plan.  Jesus is the exemplar; Jesus gave his life for all human beings.

Hebrew scriptures insist on the centrality love of neighbor over all other obligations.  The Book of Amos is  an eloquent condemnation of those who privilege fastidious observance of  covenant obligations over loving service of neighbor. Amos announces ruin for those who "trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land”  — “Never will I forget a thing they have done.” 

Today’s gospel of the “unjust steward” has always been challenging for interpreters, but perhaps it too could be construed to reinforce Jesus’ identifying  love of God with love of neighbor.  The unjust steward reduced the amounts the debtors owed to the master in order gain  favor with the debtors.  The parable exhorts the hearers to be as shrewd in gaining favor with God as the unjust steward was in gaining favor with the master’s debtors. The reading concludes simply: "You cannot serve both God and mammon." Since Jesus equates service of neighbor with  service to God perhaps we  can hear Jesus exhorting hearers to serve God in our neighbor rather simply serve mammon (self and material prosperity). 

Authentic religious practice always enhances human life.

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