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Friday, 16 September 2016

25th Sunday of the Year C 2016

25th. Sunday Year (C)
(Amos 8:4-7; 1Timothy 2:1-8; Luke 16:1-13)

He who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and he who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.
This teaching is applicable to many aspects of life and training: for example, when learning to play the piano I was told that if I could play the piece slowly, in a controlled manner with no mistakes, then I would soon be able to play it at speed; and in all forms of endeavour -- intellectual, technical and athletic -- it is essential to acquire the basic skills if one hopes to attain to any degree of true proficiency.   There is, however, one decisive sphere in our human experience where it is supremely necessary and beneficial: that is, in parental upbringing of children in those ‘very small matters’ which are the most easily corrected before any bad habit has been formed.
Although most parents would say they agreed with the principle, nevertheless, far too many seem to have difficulty in their practical application of it; since, for whatever reasons, they do not want, or do not feel themselves able, to closely observe and lovingly guide their children in certain basic aspects of humanity that promote and protect happiness as individuals and peace and cohesion as members of society.  As a result they allow their children to grow up without any clear understanding of right and wrong, and no appreciation of the need for and dignity of good manners for life in society.  Never having learned to practice loving obedience towards their parents, such children grow up with little respect or reverence for the elderly or those in positions of authority; and being unversed in the practice of discipline and self-control, they have little awareness, and even less appreciation, of the rights of others, especially the humble, the weak and needy.  
Parents who thus -- instead of being confidently aware of their own dignity as Catholic and Christian parents and trustfully facing up to their responsibilities -- consistently speak soft and self-excusing words such as "He is only a baby, she only young", and thereby allow children in their care to grow up unruly, disrespectful, disobedient, selfish and cheeky, will, inevitably, be themselves found responsible, in their measure, for the subsequent excesses of the lout and the mugger, the addict and the drop-out, the lawless and the violent adult, gradually formed and finally turned out by their school of self-absolving, careless, indulgence over many years.  As a result, many in positions of authority and obligation with regard to children will have a very severe judgement to face because of their failure to recognize and teach the truth contained in those words:
He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.
Having already glanced at the roots of crime in our modern society, we are now invited to turn our attention to worldly wealth.  In our Gospel reading Jesus went on to tell us:
If you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth?
This "dishonest" wealth, of which Jesus speaks, is often called "worldly wealth" which is – often enough in the case of great acquired wealth – dishonestly acquired, and always dishonest or unrighteous in so far as it tempts those who seek it into sinful, unrighteous ways, as we heard in the first reading:
Hear this, you who trample upon the needy, and destroy the poor of the land!  "When will the New Moon be over,” you ask, “that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath, that we may display the wheat? We will diminish the ephah, add to the shekel, and fix our scales for cheating!  We will buy the lowly for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals; even the refuse of the wheat we will sell!"
The true riches, on the other hand, of which Jesus speaks, are those given us by God, as Jesus promises elsewhere (Matthew 25:34):
Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’  
Our Western society, and in particular, current American society, is marked by, and hated for, its abuse of wealth:
When will the Sabbath be past that we may sell grain and trade wheat, making the ephah small and the shekel large, falsifying the scales that we may buy the lowly for silver?
Whilst we cannot deny that unsavoury side of our western world, especially when it is represented by certain multi-national companies, nevertheless, it is by no means an exclusively western evil, for when we look at so many of the ruling classes or the ruling authorities in all parts of the world we see individuals and groups who are just as ready and eager as any western tycoon to abuse wealth for the satisfaction of their own lusts for pleasure and power, without any real consideration for the needs of their own people.  However, not just rulers and those in authority, not only multi-national companies, but indeed, all of us, need to look at our attitude to worldly wealth, for there are many so-called Christians who gladly put wealth first of all in their list of wishes to be fulfilled by some genie out of a bottle; and, in that respect, they too will not be without some share in the guilt of those whose more manifest abuse of wealth they like to vocally condemn.
We must first of all realise that worldly wealth is not, of itself, an evil.  It does, indeed, lead easily to evil, but, of itself, it can be accepted on trust for the good of others.   We have had examples of this in our own society over the centuries; and in the early Church, some very wealthy members of Roman society, on becoming Christians, used their wealth to help fellow-Christians.   Indeed, the very making of honest wealth, can be good: for Christian business men and women can indeed do great good by providing work for others.  What is evil, however, is a desire for worldly wealth which would overstep the commands of God and override the rights of others, and in this respect, I repeat, many ordinary Christians are as guilty in their own hearts and little lives as those they may curse with their tongues.   How many men will call a businessman a fat cat with indeed a measure of hatred in their attitude even though he provides work for many, while wholeheartedly cheering and childishly praising much wealthier and perhaps totally self-centred footballers?  In this matter we must remember again the words of Jesus:
If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours?
The wealth of this world is possessed not by all men but only by a small minority; nevertheless, the natural riches of this world from which all personal wealth arises are most certainly given by God directly for all men.  Moreover, all the natural endowments of human nature together with the multitude of personal talents bestowed upon individuals are again given by God and intended indirectly, mediately, for all men: the talents of Beethoven and Handel, for example, while supporting and fulfilling their individual lives and aspirations, were also and supremely meant and bestowed to afford joy, comfort, and uplift, to all men.  In other words, whatever our situation in life, we all have gifts and corresponding responsibilities for those gifts: parents, teachers, the wealthy and the workers, those in authority and those in humble service, all of us have something which is not just for ourselves but for the good of others too, for the good of society, and of the world; and we Catholics are commanded and called to use such blessings -- our wealth of whatever sort -- for the good of others as well as for ourselves.
We come finally to the question of authority and power, so closely allied to and connected with wealth.  Here we are not to judge so much as to pray, for we need men and women who are able to bear authority and exercise power.  Governments are vital for policies but individuals are essential for decisions; and we must never forget that our specifically Christian duty -- a more serious and more essential duty than that of monitoring and criticising lots of things we do not, and cannot, fully understand -- is the duty of prayer for those at the helm of the nation.  Politics is supremely important for the well-being of millions, and it is also extremely involved: it is a devious skill at the best, where good intentions can easily be poisoned by a lust for power, or diverted by scheming and flattery, and where opportunities for self-serving abound, whilst true friends are rare if only because they are not easily to be discerned among the many pretenders surrounding those in high positions.  All this results in our joking frequently about politicians, but we can never dispense with them as a whole; and because the world in which they live and work is both dangerous and at times, evil, the most sincere prayers of Christians are truly needful for such men and women to persevere faithfully seeking to uphold Christian values and/or diligently serve the true good of the whole of society:
First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be offered for everyone, for kings and all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our saviour who wills everyone to be saved.
Our readings today have shown themselves to be very pertinent for our present-day situation; indeed, their ultimate message is pertinent for all times and for all societies:
He who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and he who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.
The greatest temptation for individuals, and the gravest danger for society in general, arises when the requirement of faithfulness in small things is disregarded: whether such negligence be that of ordinary people thinking their failings make no difference to the overall picture, or that of the powerful and influential who believe such faithfulness to be a subject suitable indeed for their public and condescending commendation of others, but not one for personal observance in the intimacy of their own lives and detailed administration of their public office.
Our first reading, however, gives us the ultimate sanction against the evils we have called to mind today:
The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Never will I forget a thing they have done!
Dear People of God, we should ever so frequently call to mind, realise, what we have always known and what is for the most part left cosily tucked-up and unnoticed at the back of our minds as individuals and indeed as the Church as a whole which today seems afraid to condemn evil for fear of offending its perpetrators!
People of God, the essence of Christianity is REPENT (hatred of sin, evil) and BELIEVE IN THE GOSPEL (Love of God in Jesus).  Both aspects are essential to make a salvific whole; and the supremely Christian hatred of sin is FEAR OF THE LORD:
                The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; prudent are all who live by it.
Fear of the LORD warms the heart, giving gladness and joy and length of days.  He who fears the LORD will have a happy end; even on the day of his death he will be blessed.  The beginning of wisdom is fear of the LORD, which is formed with the faithful in the womb.     (Psalm 111:10; Sirach 1:10-13)
Jesus and the Old Testament are one: Moses speaks of Jesus in the Scriptures Jesus tells us, and at the Transfiguration both Moses and Elijah are with Jesus speaking of and preparing Him for, His forthcoming Passion, Death, and Resurrection; and Jesus Himself, Who repeatedly said that He had come not to do His own will but the will of the One Who had sent Him, had a divinely Filial fear of the Lord:
Abba, Father, all things are possible to You. Take this cup away from Me, but not what I will but what You will.  (Mark 14:36)
Let us all therefore, dear People of God, whatever our station in life, remember with the Psalmist that the God we serve and the Saviour we follow:
Raises up the lowly from the dust, and from the dunghill He lifts up the poor, to seat them with princes, with the princes of His own people.
For, despite our differing earthly stations, our personal responsibilities are all needful and obliging, because their reward is for the present blessing of the whole of our society, and ultimately for our own personal share in eternal glory.