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25th Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 18, 2016

Traducir al Español

          I can’t get a memory of a mission trip in March of 2005 out of my mind as I think about today’s readings.  Tom Wall, the Methodist Chaplain there at USC, led a reflection for us.  He said that the middle and upper class of the United States of America make up one half of one percent of the world’s population.  (I may not have that percentage correct though; what follows is more important.)  He continued to say that the weight of our wealth is on the shoulders of the poor.  That statement so unnerved one of the students that in his defensiveness and anger, he almost became violent.  If that is indeed true, it is worth our reflection and prayers.  There may be structures or things we can do to change that reality one piece at a time.  Complicated and complex are world economics, but are they just?  Maybe a better way of saying what I’m trying to say is that we are called to use this world’s wealth shrewdly, with one eye on the poor and the other on the coming reign of God.

          Jesus puts this issue in different words.  “You cannot give yourself to God and money.”  In our culture, that does invite some hard-to-face questions about our relationship with money.  Does it mean it’s wrong to seek out a good job or a financially rewarding career?  NO!  The key is in the verb in that sentence: “You cannot give yourself to both God and money.  Another way of saying this is, “You cannot serve both God and money/mammon.”  Those verbs indicate a master/servant relationship.  For money to be our master, we don’t have to genuflect in front of a 10-dollar bill.  It’s an attitude, a mindset, that goes like this: “Above all, my goal in life is to make lots of money and have all the cool things it can buy.”  The danger in our culture is that the pursuit of making more and more money is that relationships that matter suffer; marital relationships, parental responsibilities, and most important, our relationship with God.  Such a person probably feels like the master when in fact, he or she is actually the slave to money and the pursuit thereof.

          Jesus in the optional parable reminds us that stewardship is not only important, but will be a criterion by which we will be judged by God.  Many people think their giving to the church financially is unnecessary for a countless list of reasons.  But sharing our time, talent and TREASURE is one of the criteria by which we will be judged.  If you think the church doesn’t need money to function and we can’t convince you otherwise, Jesus is telling us that does not matter, but that we have a duty to return thanks to God by sharing our treasure!

          Besides contemplating what we can do for the poor and our relationship with money, Jesus also makes the point that little things matter in loving stewardship and service.  Everything we do out of love is important.  An encouraging word to a teenager can change the direction of his or her life.  Holding back criticism can make a family member or a fellow parishioner or coworker feel good about themselves. Or better yet, make sure we are as generous in our praise as we are in our criticisms.  If all we see is bad in certain people, then maybe that’s all we are looking for and the real problem is not with the person we criticize, it’s with us!  Little things done in love do matter!
          Our necessary dealings with the world must be placed where they belong: in total subordination to the love and service of the God who made us and who gave us all that we have and all that we are.