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Bible Reflections View Comments

What Will We Pay for Peace of Mind?
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, September 22, 2013
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Today’s Gospel contains that oft-quoted line, “You cannot serve both God and mammon.” The key here is not the word mammon (money), but the word serve. If we let our concern for material goods overmaster us, we will be in trouble.

We spend a great deal of our time working for money—and the things it can buy. But too often we place ourselves and others at the service of our economy rather than letting our good fortune make the world a better place.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the story of a man who, knowing that he’s going to lose his job, goes to all the people who owe his master money and offers to lower the amount they owe.

It’s easy to get distracted by the fact that Jesus seems to be praising the steward for what we might see as dishonest business practices. We feel especially virtuous when we take this detour. We pat ourselves on the back for not behaving this badly. Some commentators have suggested, however, that the amount the steward was taking off the bill was the amount that would have been his commission.

The steward has come to a point in his life when he needs to rely on the generosity, even the charity, of others. If he mistreated his business associates harshly in the past, he has little chance of getting another job. If he’s only concerned about his profits and doing well for himself, he will find himself alone and destitute. So he sacrifices his profits, using his money to buy at least some sort of good feeling from others.

The message throughout the Scriptures is that if we’re right with God, our only true master, we will be right with other people as well. If we put something else in place of God, that misplaced desire will throw our other relationships out of whack. Money is the most obvious example of greed, but not the only one.

The prophet Amos reviles the people who resent the sabbath for the way it interferes with their business, which seems to involve not only commerce but a particularly vicious cheating that shows a complete disregard for others. His words still hold a bite for us today.

We pride ourselves on abolishing slavery, and yet when Amos says, “We will buy the lowly for silver and the poor for a pair of sandals,” we might recall images of children in developing countries being paid pennies for working 15 or 17 hours a day to make high-priced sneakers. Factory conditions in India and Bangladesh have led to horrendous fires and building collapses, but we continue to buy cheap clothing from companies that disavow any responsibility for those conditions.

We criticize illegal immigrants who search for a better life in America, and yet we turn a blind eye to the employers who know they can hire (and exploit) these workers more cheaply than they can hire American citizens.

Today’s message is stark and unavoidable. Money can never be more important than God—or God’s creation either. No status, no bank account, no influence is more important than another human being. We might think we can close our eyes to the injustices perpetrated in the name of profit, but we will pay a high price in the end. We think we’ve bought peace of mind, but our God says otherwise. Only justice will bring peace.


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Martha: Martha, Mary and their brother Lazarus were evidently close friends of Jesus. He came to their home simply as a welcomed guest, rather than as one celebrating the conversion of a sinner like Zacchaeus or one unceremoniously received by a suspicious Pharisee. The sisters feel free to call on Jesus at their brother’s death, even though a return to Judea at that time seems almost certain death. 
<p>No doubt Martha was an active sort of person. On one occasion (see Luke 10:38-42) she prepares the meal for Jesus and possibly his fellow guests and forthrightly states the obvious: All hands should pitch in to help with the dinner. </p><p>Yet, as biblical scholar Father John McKenzie points out, she need not be rated as an “unrecollected activist.” The evangelist is emphasizing what our Lord said on several occasions about the primacy of the spiritual: “...[D]o not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear…. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:25b, 33a); “One does not live by bread alone” (Luke 4:4b); “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness…” (Matthew 5:6a). </p><p>Martha’s great glory is her simple and strong statement of faith in Jesus after her brother’s death. “Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world’” (John 11:25-27).</p> American Catholic Blog The commandments are a gift, not a curse. Sin is less about breaking the rules and more about breaking the Father’s heart.

 
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