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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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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog Heavenly Father, I am sure there are frequently tiny miracles where you protect us and are present to us although you always remain anonymous. Help me appreciate how carefully you watch over me and my loved ones all day long, and be sensitive enough to stay close to you. I ask this in Jesus's name. Amen.

 
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