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Sunday Scripture: Let us have concern for one another

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

By Sister Betty J. Lillie, S.C.

Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Amos 8:4-7;  Psalm 113:1-2, 4-8; 1 Timothy 2:1-8;  Luke 16:1-13

In keeping with the purpose of Luke’s journey narrative (Luke 9:51-24:53) we have in our Gospel reading this week some instruction about what Luke saw as the judicious use of temporal goods.  It may have been a sensitive issue in early Christian times and it may well be so even today.

The parable of the steward who wasted his master’s riches falls in two parts.  The first part (Luke 16:1-9) seems to represent the original context of the teaching. Some interpreters believe that originally the parable called disciples to heed the preaching of Jesus in the context of the fact that the kingdom of God was at hand.  Jesus had come, and so many assumed that the end time was near.
It likely seems incongruous that the master in the parable would complement the unjust steward for his shrewdness in providing for himself.  The point that is often missed is that the steward used the money to help others, namely the debtors, so that they would in some way be relieved of a measure of pressure in their indebtedness.
What follows in the second part of the parable is a contrast between the sons of this world who operate in the mindset of unacceptable greed, and the sons of light who make a correct use of money and thus receive the true riches of the kingdom. The sons of light may seem to be less clever, but in fact they are the ones who are blessed.
In the parable as we have it now, the first part about the demand because of the belief in the immanent coming of the kingdom has been shifted by Luke to the demand that was made on disciples in the historical time period of the early church. It appears that those who lived in comfort were unconcerned about the needs of others who lacked even the basic needs of a human life.
For the most part, the well established would have corresponded to the leadership of the community at that time. They would have had responsibility for the daily distribution to the poor. From the Acts of the Apostles we learn that some of the poor were neglected by them, and so seven men were appointed to administer to the needs of the poor (Acts 6:1-3). Even at that time the church had problems!

Our first reading from the prophet Amos contributes to our understanding of how the poor were treated at the time of Amos. He prophesied the fall of the Northern Kingdom in 722-721 BCE, and the reason he advanced  for the fall was the lack of covenant morality there. The inhumanity of some people to other people signaled greed and oppression that God saw as unacceptable behavior among His chosen people.  

In our psalm response the psalmist raises praise to the Lord for all that He is and all that He does. He has compassion on his faithful servants, the poor; and He lifts the needy from their misery.

Sister Betty Jane is a faculty member at the Athenaeum of Ohio.

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