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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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Hilary of Arles: It’s been said that youth is wasted on the young. In some ways, that was true for today’s saint. 
<p>Born in France in the early fifth century, Hilary came from an aristocratic family. In the course of his education he encountered his relative, Honoratus, who encouraged the young man to join him in the monastic life. Hilary did so. He continued to follow in the footsteps of Honoratus as bishop. Hilary was only 29 when he was chosen bishop of Arles. </p><p>The new, youthful bishop undertook the role with confidence. He did manual labor to earn money for the poor. He sold sacred vessels to ransom captives. He became a magnificent orator. He traveled everywhere on foot, always wearing simple clothing. </p><p>That was the bright side. Hilary encountered difficulty in his relationships with other bishops over whom he had some jurisdiction. He unilaterally deposed one bishop. He selected another bishop to replace one who was very ill–but, to complicate matters, did not die! Pope St. Leo the Great kept Hilary a bishop but stripped him of some of his powers. </p><p>Hilary died at 49. He was a man of talent and piety who, in due time, had learned how to be a bishop.</p> American Catholic Blog True freedom lies in the ability to align one’s actions freely with the truth, so as to achieve authentic human happiness both now and in the life to come. Jesus promised, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31–32).

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