Sunday, September 18, 2022 – 25th Sunday in OrdinaryTime
Amos 8:4-7; Ps 113; 1Tim 2:1-8; Lk 16:1-13
Whenever we read from the books of the prophets, it is essential to bear in mind that these prophets were people of their day and age, not ours. Therefore, if we really want to understand what they said, we must desist from giving to their statements, meanings which the original prophet never intended to convey. What they did intend to convey, however, is the people they ministered to were living contrary to God’s plan for them and were therefore on the path of self-destruction.
Amos, in our first reading today, makes this amply clear. Sent to the Northern Kingdom (NK), he is to prophesy against them for their social inequality. Very often, because of the religious language involved, we are prone to misunderstand that the primary thrust of Amos’ prophecy is against idolatry. Quite the contrary, for the fact that the people of the NK are visiting a shrine, means that they are seeking God -we must understand here that strict monotheism was still at a developmental stage when Amos was prophesying in the 8th Century BC – and because they are seeking God, Amos is able to approach them and point out that the faith they are practicing isn’t what Yahweh wants them to be doing. Their outlook of God was that He was a distant God who would not condescend to meddle in their mundane everyday affairs. It is here that Amos points out that God is not only interested in their daily lives but he, contrary to their belief, is rather disinterested in their festivals and sacrifices. And so, Amos will be scathing in his criticism of them, for they think they are good Jews since they practice all the rituals required by the Law of Moses. Which good Jew would “trample on the needy and destroy the poor of the land” or cheat by altering weights and measures for profit, selling the poor for “a pair of sandals”? which good Jew would stoop so low so as to even sell the “sweepings of the wheat” to those, whose severe hunger forces them to buy even those sweepings? How could they even think that their dealings reflected a God who is Holy? These piercing questions find their full force in Amos’ words, tearing at their conscience and ripping through their comfort zones.
Paul writing to Timothy speaks on similar lines, but with a much kinder tone; kinder, only because of the presumption that the Christian community has already learnt what God wants from them. And so, he will ask Timothy to convey to the Christians that we should “pray for everyone” in order that everyone can live “religious and reverent lives in peace and quiet.” This seems quite a lame asking from Paul, till we come to the end of the reading where he qualifies the “praying”. The community must offer their prayers “with lifted hands” – a sign of surrender to God- and “with no anger or argument.” To have no anger or argument implies not a state of diplomatically induced peace but rather living a life of altruistic brotherhood. This, obviously includes, living a just life as Amos would require us to live.
But what about the “dishonest steward” in the Gospel? How does a Christian reconcile his/her dealings with that of the steward? Once again, we must recall that like the prophets, Jesus too, was speaking to people of his time, a time devoid of the internet, mobile phones and instant messaging apps. The steward is firstly pulled up for his “dishonesty” and secondly is given time to draw up the accounts of the master. This fact is known only to the master and the steward. In this desperate situation, the steward makes the most of the time at hand. He settles the master’s bills with the debtors, reducing them by 20% to as much as 50%. Because the debtors have no idea that the steward is doing this of his own accord, they assume he is doing it at the master’s insistence. This steward has thus, achieved tow things; while on the one hand, he has gained favour in the sight of the master’s debtors, he has also raised up his master’s stature in the eyes of the debtors who would not stop praising the master for his big-heartedness. Now although the master could still dismiss the dishonest steward, it would not seem the best thing to do since that would dent his new image created among the debtors and the people in general, who by now would have heard of the master’s generosity.
The point Jesus is making is that people generally work much harder at doing evil than they work at doing good. If only we worked half as hard in planning out the good we can do, this world would be a better place and the gospel would be lived out.
The readings invite us to look at life as the prophets did. Can we plan on what good we will do today? Whom can we reach out to? Who will be the recipient of that surprise call? Who would find the helping hand that they never expected? The reading invite us to be “conniving” … conniving at doing good, and so living out the Gospel.
This Scripture reflection is an initiative of the Ministry of the Word group- laity trained and commissioned to spread the Word of God.