WHAT OPTION DO WE HAVE FOR THE POOR?
HOMILY FOR TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C. Readings: Amos 8:4-7; Psalm 113; 1Timothy 2:1-8; Luke 16:1-13.
There is this popular saying by Helen Keller that ‘the only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.’ Today’s liturgy presents to us the foresight of a steward at the verge of losing his stewardship. In the wisdom of man, he exercised a commendable action, but could be a biblical model or patron of corruption and its practices, especially in a country like ours where corruption has become a way of life. The liturgy raises questions on equity and justice, questions our source of income and the spirit of greed that makes us amass wealth at the detriment of the poor.
The Prophet Amos in the first reading, elucidates on this by condemning injustice and oppression against the poor. He said, “Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and bring the poor of the land to an end” (Am 8:4). Torah law includes provisions to cater for the needs of the poor. Landowners are required to leave the edges of their fields unharvested so that poor people can glean those fields and obtain enough food to survive (Lev. 19:9-10). The law also has other requirements to support the poor. However, the prophets emphasized concerned for the poor and condemned ill treatments of widows and orphans (Is 1:17, 23; 10:1; Jer. 5:28). The prophet focuses on his familiar theme of justice, decrying those in Israel who made their money from unjust treatment of the poor and vulnerable. In today’s reading, Amos regarded predatory behavior towards the weak and vulnerable as one of the worst possible sin.
These predators waiting for the moon to end in order to carry out their plans to deal deceitfully with false balances and buys the poor for silver and gold, draws our attention to the Jewish ritual observance of the moon as we have in Number 29:6 and v.2. Their longing for the moon to be over is a clear sign of hypocrisy. While these seemingly religious people keep the ritual observances of the new moon, they do so with their eyes on the clock. In a way to say, ‘how soon will this ceremony be over so I can get on with my life.’ They are not different from some of us who wait for the mass or a period of prayer or mortification to end so as to get back to sin. They are not different from some of us who say, ‘let this priest finish with his preaching so I can get back to my fraudulent and dubious business or immoral way of life.’ If after this reflection, we still long and develop dubious means to cheat and be dishonest to our customers or clients, we are indifferent from a predator. We are only full of greed, which spurs us to corruption and injustice, what the world consider as wisdom and will literally say, “No dulling.” When we have this in mind, let us also recall that our God is a just God, who does not forget the good works of his people and does not forget the evil works of those who reject him.
Christ in the gospel gives us a parable of the dishonest steward, who was probably a manager and was in charge of money and property. In Luke’s gospel, this parable is bracketed by two other money parables, the parable of the prodigal son and the elder brother, and the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. In each of these parables, money is a central problem. An underlying teaching in these parables is that option and compassion for the poor leads to eternal reward. In today’s parable, the steward had cheated his boss by wasting his goods and has followed the career of embezzlement, and was asked to give account of his stewardship. This parable is a reminder that we are all stewards and must be accountable of our stewardship before God who is just and holy.
Interestingly, when the steward realized he will be called to give account, he knew his poor management will be exposed. He also knew that other options were not attractive to him (not strong enough to dig the soil and ashamed to beg). So he made friends with his master’s debtors and used his present position to prepare him for the next stage of his life. He was commended not because of his dishonesty, but because he has acted wisely. Seeing the urgency of his crises, he built bridges to the future. Having seen the action of the steward, can we accept him as a model? Using a dishonest steward as an example for his disciples seems difficult to comprehend. However, Christ did not approve his conduct for the Kingdom of God but commend him as a true businessman in pursuit for materialism. He approved his foresight without approving his behavior.
Some of us are topnotch in our careers, businesses and respective places of work. Christ urges us through the steward to exert same or more energy and wisdom we use in pursuing money/wealth, to be used in pursuit of the Kingdom of God. If we pursued the Kingdom of God with same vigor and zeal that the children of this world pursue profits and pleasure, we would live in an entirely different world. Let us take a look at MTN, if their mobile network slogan is: ‘everywhere you go,’ and Coca-Cola is practically all over the world, why can’t the gospel be witnessed everywhere we go and all over the world? The response is entailed in the commendation of the master, “It is because the sons of this world are wiser in their own generation than the sons of the light” (v.8).
It is on this note that St. Paul in the second reading invites us to pray for ourselves, especially leaders who are in position to salvage the lives of the poor and to pray for the salvation of the world. This is good and acceptable in the eyes of God our savior, who wants all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. In a nutshell, God does not condemn riches or wealth. Acquiring wealth through genuine means is never sinful in itself, but the wisdom to realize we are stewards of the wealth we possess and to use it for the good of the poor around us that matters. These poor can be our means of salvation.
Fr. Ken Dogbo, OSJ