Sunday, September 11, 2016

Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 18, 2016

First Reading Commentary
"When will the new moon be over?"  The new moon is the beginning of a Jewish festival; and at the end of that festival is when those who lent money at unusually high rates of interest would demand their payment.  In the Gospel there's evidence of this when Jesus ejected the traders from the temple (cf. Luke 19:45-48). 
What is occurring in this Reading is the exploitation of the weak by the strong, and the poor being taken advantage of by the rich.  Crooked business dealings, questionable politics and other forms of unrighteousness are still a reality in today's society. 
God has revealed to us that He is the same always.  It is humanity that makes all the changes - it is human beings that invent ways to help themselves at the expense of others; and are somehow arrogant enough to think that God will go along for the ride.  The trouble nowadays is there are a handful of corrupt and immoral things which have been occurring for so long that it has almost become acceptable – a mindset or normal way of life for our society.  The immorality of it all is seldom questioned.  The last verse plainly states how God looks upon it: "Never will I forget a thing they have done!" 
Where do we as Christ's followers fit in to all of this?  Certainly not as finger pointers!  Each of us has the duty of examining our own consciences.  While corruption and immorality may begin with its perpetrators, its advancement often comes by means of good people doing nothing.

Second Reading Commentary
Here Saint Paul urges us to pray for each other and more specifically for those in public office whose decisions could have a direct bearing on the tranquility and quality of our lives.  What has been a concern for so long in other nations is now a concern in the United States – freedom of religion – in which the precepts of faith are being marginalized by the federal government.  One such issue is the sanctity of life, and the killing of such life, and religious organizations having to provide the funding for this immorality.    
In Saint Paul's day, Christianity was at a young age and he was concerned about false teachings creeping in.  He tries to assure all that God wishes everyone to be saved but it is crucial to come to the knowledge of the truth and stay away from those who were spreading false doctrine.  Paul's claims to the truth are supported by his appointment from Christ Himself to be a preacher and apostle. 
In this letter Paul's final wishes are for prayer while avoiding anger and arguments.  In other words, pray for each other because we're all in this together as the Mystical Body of Christ.
Gospel Commentary
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church is the following lesson: "Every practice that reduces persons to nothing more than a means of profit enslaves man, leads to idolizing money and contributes to the spread of atheism" (CCC 2424).  It's sad that the caution flag Jesus has waived so often throughout this 'Journey Narrative' is still pertinent today.  It simply means that the lessons taught by our Redeemer still have not been fully acted upon some two-thousand years later. 
Jesus' native language was Aramaic.  The word "mammon" is an Aramaic word which means "something confided" or "deposited".  In this Gospel mammon is clearly the mammon of iniquity.  In the parable there is a steward who manages the estate of a rich man; but is accused, with good reason, of mismanagement and thus is removed from his position.  The steward doesn't know where to turn because he is not strong enough for manual labor and he is too ashamed to beg.  Unfortunately, he's not too ashamed to steal.  He calls upon his master's debtors and falsifies their contracts.  In doing so, he has cheated his master even further.  The master then commends this corrupt steward for his prudence. 
"For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light."  This can be a difficult statement to understand.  The master and the steward represent those who live by the ideals of this world.  Therefore, the master commends the steward for such a worldly - looking out for number one - type of solution.  The children of light live by the ideals of the world to come.  Although our Lord is not actually recommending the behavioral tendencies of the children of this world who ingeniously invent schemes for their temporal advantage, He would seem to be suggesting that the children of light need to consider themselves stewards for God by being prudent about the concerns of eternity.  In other words, stewards of God need to conduct their affairs fully aware that they will have to render an account to their Master because as stewards of God much has been given therefore much will be required. 
"You cannot serve God and mammon."  Jesus concludes this Gospel with that statement to show that serving Him faithfully and properly is not possible if attached to worldly possessions.  There's no harm in having temporal riches, but if there is anything among those temporal goods that absolutely, positively cannot be parted with, that possession, then, is an attachment and is incompatible with serving Christ because the attachment becomes an idol.