TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
In the first reading, Amos condemns the rich for being more concerned with money than with true worship. In the Gospel, Jesus speaks about the importance of decisive action in a time of crisis and about using material wealth in a way that will give honor to God. In the second reading, Paul encourages prayers of intercession, especially for leaders.
FIRST READING: Amos 8:4-7
Amos, recognized as a prophet of social justice, rails against the rich who make a mockery of the Sabbath by carrying out business practices that exploit the poor and defenseless. The merchants describe their own dishonesty in different ways. “Tipping the scales” was a daily occurrence. The Ephah was a dry measure equal to a bushel; the shekel was a unit of stone weights. In their buying and selling, the merchants adjusted the scales to their advantage. The poor paid more and received less. Yet, these merchants came to worship on the Sabbath even though they daily ripped off the poor. Amos condemned such false religion in the strongest way.
SECOND READING: 1 Timothy 2:1-8
Paul urges prayers for all people. He especially singles out those in leadership positions. He also states that it is God’s will that all people be saved.
GOSPEL: Luke 16:1-13
This is probably the most difficult parable in the New Testament to interpret because Jesus appears to be holding up, as a model of behavior, a dishonest manager. The following are two interpretations given to the parable:
First Interpretation: Some commentators tell us that the manager really wasn’t dishonest. In those days, the manager was entitled to a commission for caring for his master’s land. When each debtor came in he lowered the amount he owed his master. He did this by charging little or no commission. In this way, he lost some commission but he did not cheat his master and he ingratiated himself to the debtors hoping that they will take care of him when he is fired. What a crafty guy! Jesus comments to his disciples: “Note how shrewd this child of the world is. He uses wealth well to ensure his earthly future. You, as children of the kingdom, should use wealth well to ensure your place in the heavenly kingdom. You will do this by generously sharing your wealth.”
Second Interpretation: The second interpretation disagrees with the attempt to clean up the manager. If he just took a cut on his commission, he should be called “crafty” and not “devious” (as he is called). This second view believes the manager did cheat his master. In this case, Jesus is not praising the man for dishonesty but for his decisive action in a crisis situation. Jesus notes to his disciples: “You can learn from this child of the world. In times of crisis don’t just do nothing. Rather, take decisive action.”
One commentator states: “Why should we be offended that Jesus found something to praise in a dishonest guy, for all of us are a mixed bag? Unsavory people do have some good qualities, even if it is hard for us to recognize them. The manager’s dishonesty, which Jesus didn’t commend, shouldn’t discolor everything else about the guy.”
What Jesus praised was the manager’s decisive action in a time of crisis. Disciples should follow this example by taking decisive action to ensure for themselves a place in God’s Kingdom.
The Gospel ends with a series of miscellaneous sayings about money and the right use of it. If a dishonest man can use money, his master’s money, to ensure there will be people to welcome him when he is out of a job, how much more should honest people use their money in such a way that they will be welcomed into the Kingdom of God? While we cannot buy our own way into the Kingdom of God, we can say that the right use of money will place us in a favorable light before God.
How would the Amos type of person be received in our church or society today? How do you feel about people who are strong advocates of social justice?