HOMILY FOR THE 25TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Readings: Amos 8:4-7/1Tim. 2:1-8
Psalm: 113: 1-2, 4-8
Gospel: Lk. 16:1-13
I want to give you a few statistics: As of Sunday, September 18th, there are 43 days until Halloween; 51 days until Election Day; 67 days until Thanksgiving, 98 days until Christmas; 105 days until New Year’s; and 63 days until the End of the Jubilee of Mercy. I saved that one for last because this past year has been a rather special one. Pope Francis wanted the Church as a whole to understand what is means to not only have Mercy for others, but to know what receiving true Mercy entails. But we sometimes have to wait for those moments to happen. That is why we spend a good part of our lives counting the days before an event either with a calendar or a datebook or a smart phone or whatever we use to keep track of important events that express joy and gratitude to everyone we meet. When Mercy is given, then the anticipation of Mercy received is doubly gracious.
Unfortunately, while those who desire Mercy receive Mercy, many times we find those who prefer profit and prestige over Mercy. They would rather find treasure in the world rather than Mercy. The readings proclaimed today give a glimpse into that reality. The prophet Amos saw the habits of those who would focus of their own wealth rather than the welfare of the Jewish people. They have taken to rig the system so that whatever they sell will get them more money than they were supposed to get. They took every piece of grain and, rather than leave it for the very poor for their use, placed it along with their load to sell at market. This caused the poor not to be able to pay their debts and be placed in slavery until the debt is paid. This was in violation of the Law of Moses set down in the Book of Leviticus that says “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not be so thorough that you reap the field to its very edge, nor shall you glean the stray ears of grain. Likewise, you shall not pick your vineyard bare, nor gather up the grapes that have fallen. These things you shall leave for the poor and the alien for I, the Lord, am your God.” (Lev. 19:9-10, NAB).
This is the same mentality that Jesus is speaking about in the Parable of dishonest steward, which was proclaimed in the Gospel of Luke. Stewards, in order to make their living, would charge the tenants of the landowner rents and any debts that were due to the owner. The stewards would look for ways to “creatively adjust” the formula’s by which these amounts were calculated. Whatever was the amount would go to the owner, and the extra would go into the stewards’ pocket. This is a violation of that same law; taking what little the poor needs to survive in order for someone else to gain un-earned wealth. When we focus on ourselves rather than others, we run the risk of forgoing God’s mercy and living our lives in a state of narcissism.
The kind of Mercy that the Pope wants us to experience is reflected in Paul’s Letter to Timothy. In it, he asks that prayers and supplications and petitions and thanks be given to everyone, young and old, rich and poor alike, so that we can live a life of tranquil devotion and dignity. “This is good and pleasing to God our Savior, who wills everyone to be saved and come to knowledge of the truth.” (1Tim. 2:3-4). The goal of all Mercy is to live a life where no one has any fear or desire to take what has not been given to us by the grace of God and the fruits of our Labor. For that to happen, we must live for the Mercy of God to come into our lives and remain within us as he does when he, in the person of Christ, comes into the bread and wine we offer at each Mass that transubstantiates into his Body and Blood.
I do have to admit, however, that in this day and age that it becomes harder and harder to show Mercy and to receive Mercy. We find ourselves looking at the world and wonder what kind of shape it is in. Every 4 years in the United States (or 2 years in Illinois) we hear how bad things are and those who shape the course of democracy are not being effective and that they need to be replaced. Yet those who seek to attain these offices are not fit to do so. If you don’t believe me, asks that candidates opponent. They will tell you how bad that person is. And we get caught up in that trap, like school kids cheering on their team from the sidelines and not wanting to get into the game. I admit that sometimes I get caught up in the mess. We see it on bumper stickers, commercials, and even on Facebook and Twitter. And what becomes worse, the actions start to strain relationships between friends, families, co-workers and even within the Church. It was getting to the point that I thought everyone I knew; those who I grew up with and those I knew later on in life were getting caught up in this movement as if they were different people. They acted as if everything I believed was wrong and that my beliefs had no meaning. In fact, it became so much that I felt that I was the enemy of everyone that I had known. Perhaps, I as well had been caught up in this madness by my own actions. The Mercy of God had been deflected by the barriers of hatred and self-appeasement.
Yet when I felt I was at my limits, when I believed I could not live how I wanted to or behave in a way I wanted to without being wronged or ridiculed or be viewed as un-patriotic or even traitorous to either this country or the Church, something came into my head. It was a thought that someone who was boxed into a corner or at the bottom of a well would think or say in order that would bring everything back into balance. It was this one thought. “THE LOVE I HAVE FOR YOU IS GREATER THAN THE DISDAIN YOU HAVE FOR ME.” Once I had that thought come into my head, all the pain and anguish that I had was gone. The blockade of hatred was demolished and the Mercy of God came back into me. It is a phrase that I will try to keep each day. It is a phrase that we need to have in our hearts in the hearing of the readings proclaimed today. It is what I believe that Pope Francis intended by proclaiming this Year of Mercy: to have our hearts, minds and souls changed during extraordinary times so that by giving and receiving Mercy when things seem darkest, then Mercy will be found when we need it the most.
The anticipation for Mercy has now been reduced from the number of months or the number of days or the number of hours that were expressed at the beginning all the way down to zero. Mercy is here and now. Let the love we have and the Mercy we reflect be greater than the disdain the world has for us.
MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND ALL THAT YOU DO THIS WEEK
Questions for Reflection:
- When were the times that you felt that you were being cheated out of what you deserve?
How did you handle them?
- Jesus tells the disciples to “make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when
it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” What do you think he meant?
- How can you make the love you have for someone who disdains you turn back to you so their
love for you is just as much?