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God or Mammon?

Entrance Antiphon: “I am the salvation of the people, says the Lord. Should they cry to Me in any distress, I will hear them, and I will be their Lord forever.”

First Reading: Am 8:4-7 — “Against those who buy the poor for money.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 113:1-2, 4-6, 7-8 — “Praise the Lord who lifts up the poor”

Second Reading: 1 Tm 2:1-8 — “Let prayers be offered to God who wills everyone to be saved.”

Alleluia: 2 Cor 8:9 — “Alleluia, alleluia. Though our Lord Jesus Christ was rich, He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich. Alleluia, alleluia.”

Gospel: Lk 16:1-13 — “You cannot serve both God and mammon.”

Communion Antiphon: Ps 119(118):4-5 — “You have laid down Your precepts to be carefully kept; may my ways be firm in keeping Your statutes.”

The board game Monopoly can probably be found in nearly everyone’s home. Since it was first published by Parker Brothers over 80 years ago, more than 750 million people have played the game ... on a board ... on a computer ... on your phone ... even on slot machines. No matter how you play, the object of the game is the same ... to amass property, things and wealth at the expense of all the other players. We think it’s fun to get all those hotels, boardwalks, railroads, and rental properties, and to drive others into bankruptcy. Monopoly is a game that speaks to something almost all of us have in common: We all want “things” ... and the more “things” we have ... the better.

That fascination with accumulating wealth and buying things is something we also share with the merchants in today’s First Reading and the crafty steward in Saint Luke’s Gospel. Those readings also set an atmosphere that challenges us to decide whom we will choose to serve in our lifetime – God or our accumulated “stuff.”

Amos ... known as the social justice prophet ... lashes out at the greedy merchants who prefer growing wealthier with “stuff” as opposed to growing in their spiritual lives. He uses strong language ... describing the merchants who can’t wait for the new moon festival to be over ... calling them people “who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor.” In other words, those growing wealthier have done so at the expense of others. By quoting what the scoundrels plan to do after the festival, Amos is preaching against social injustices such as wage discrimination, business fraud, price manipulation, dishonesty, and other unethical actions. Amos’ strong language is language for our ourselves and our own society today … here and now … which sometimes practices these same injustices.

Saint Luke’s Gospel suggests that Jesus is well aware of our fascination with money and possessions ... how near and dear they are to our hearts ... and the extent to which we will go to acquire more money and accumulate more things. Last Sunday, we heard of the prodigal son who received his share of his inheritance and experienced nothing but misery in his greediness. Next Sunday, we will hear yet another parable about the rich man living in the lap of luxury while Lazarus ... a poor man covered with sores ... sits at the gate of his mansion ... dying to eat even the scraps that fall from the table. Today, we hear that an unjust and unethical manager is trying to deceive his boss. It would seem that Saint Luke can’t emphasize enough the fact that wealth is not an indicator of the depth of our spirituality. In fact, it could be quite the opposite: Material goods can actually interfere with our spiritual growth, if we allow them to.

The gifts of wealth and material goods ... if we are fortunate enough to have them ... need to be considered along with the many other gifts and blessings God lavishes on us ... especially the gifts of life and love. As gifts, they are meant to be given away. God gave us life ... which is, quite honestly ... a major part of our wealth. What are we doing with it? ... How are we sharing our time on earth with all of creation? ... God loves us passionately ... Whom do we love passionately? ... What do we love passionately? ... God gives us material and spiritual resources. Do we squirrel them away ... and block our ears to the cries of the poor ... or do we share our worldly goods and our spiritual gifts with those less fortunate?

This weekend we also celebrate Catechists. A catechist is a teacher and a mystagogue. A mystagogue is someone who explains, to the best of their ability, the beliefs of the faith. A catechist is an accompanier and an educator. Catechists share their gift of faith. Think about it. As I’ve said before, by virtue of our Baptism, we should all be catechists ... that is what we are all called to be. For the pastoral activity of the Church, the cooperation of a great many people ... actually the cooperation of all of us ... is needed, so that communities as well as individuals may advance to full maturity in faith and continually show forth their faith through the celebration of liturgy, through study, and through their manner of life.

This past June, the Church in the United States began an unprecedented initiative: a Eucharistic Revival. Such a revival is needed today and we should know that we as catechists will be vital to the revival’s success. Alongside the need for the Eucharistic revival, there is considerable enthusiasm these days for the idea that catechesis needs to become more evangelistic ... we need to take what we learn inside these four walls ... and proclaim it ... we need to share it with the world.

The theme for this Catechetical weekend is This is My Body given for you.” We hear those words during the Eucharistic Prayer at every Mass we attend. Each of us is invited to reflect and to prayerfully enter the Sacrament of the Eucharist in our lives. This theme is totally in line with the Eucharistic revival so recently initiated in the United States. As Catholics, we should recognize in those words the generous gift of God the Father, which is offered to us in His Son, Jesus Christ. Likewise, with grateful hearts, we should be able to affirm in the Holy Spirit the immensity of Jesus’ sacrificial and life-giving love for us. “I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to Me will never hunger, and whoever believes in Me will never thirst ... for this is the will of My Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day” (Jn 6:35, 40).

Today, we are among those who come to the Lord, believe in Him, and see His loving presence in the Spirit of truth and life in our communities (Jn 14:16-17). It is in the Spirit that we discern the paths to follow as we seek to emulate ... to imitate ... the sacrificial and life-giving presence of Jesus Christ. As Saint John reminds us, Christ’s loving Presence in the Holy Spirit is never far from us, guiding our steps in relationship ... in mutual encounter, in accompaniment, and in mission (Jn 16:13-14).

Today’s readings seem pretty straightforward and uncomplicated. We are meant to put material goods in proper perspective, and share our wealth and possessions generously, responsibly, and wisely. We are also reminded of our Baptismal mission to be Priest, Prophet, and King. We are called to share our gifts and to be catechists. Adults ... Parents and Teachers: you were called to raise our children in the Faith ... to be prophets ... to be Catechists ... to share your faith as the best possible examples for our children by what you say, what you do, and how you act ... Children ... boys and girls ... Baptism calls you to be Catechists too ... to be good examples for brothers and sisters ... classmates and friends. And once more, as we conclude the Liturgy of the Word and begin the Liturgy of the Eucharist ... consider this … aside from our lives ... the greatest gift God has given us is the Eucharist. This is My Body given for you.” We are asked by Christ ... we are invited by Christ … to treasure our lives and to treasure the sacrifice of His Body and Blood above all things ... and as catechists to share these gifts of love with others.

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