Saturday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time
Christ Driving the Moneychangers from the Temple by Rembrandt — 1626
Reading 1 PHIL 4:10-19
I rejoice greatly in the Lord
that now at last you revived your concern for me.
You were, of course, concerned about me but lacked an opportunity.
Not that I say this because of need,
for I have learned, in whatever situation I find myself,
to be self-sufficient.
I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances;
I know also how to live with abundance.
In every circumstance and in all things
I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry,
of living in abundance and of being in need.
I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.
Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress.You Philippians indeed know that at the beginning of the Gospel,
when I left Macedonia,
not a single church shared with me
in an account of giving and receiving, except you alone.
For even when I was at Thessalonica
you sent me something for my needs,
not only once but more than once.
It is not that I am eager for the gift;
rather, I am eager for the profit that accrues to your account.
I have received full payment and I abound.
I am very well supplied because of what I received from you
“a fragrant aroma,” an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.
My God will fully supply whatever you need,
in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
Responsorial Psalm PS 112:1B-2, 5-6, 8A AND 9
Blessed the man who fears the LORD,
who greatly delights in his commands.
His posterity shall be mighty upon the earth;
the upright generation shall be blessed.
R. Blessed the man who fears the Lord.
Well for the man who is gracious and lends,
who conducts his affairs with justice;
He shall never be moved;
the just one shall be in everlasting remembrance.
R. Blessed the man who fears the Lord.
His heart is steadfast; he shall not fear.
Lavishly he gives to the poor;
his generosity shall endure forever;
his horn shall be exalted in glory.
R. Blessed the man who fears the Lord.
Alleluia 2 COR 8:9
Jesus Christ became poor although he was rich,
so that by his poverty you might become rich.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel LK 16:9-15
Jesus said to his disciples:
“I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth,
so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
The person who is trustworthy in very small matters
is also trustworthy in great ones;
and the person who is dishonest in very small matters
is also dishonest in great ones.
If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth,
who will trust you with true wealth?
If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another,
who will give you what is yours?
No servant can serve two masters.
He will either hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and mammon.”
The Pharisees, who loved money,
heard all these things and sneered at him.
And he said to them,
“You justify yourselves in the sight of others,
but God knows your hearts;
for what is of human esteem is an abomination in the sight of God.”
Commentary on Luke 16:9-15 From Living Space
Yesterday we saw Jesus give the example of a corrupt but astute manager who took effective steps to guarantee his future employment. Today he goes on to warn us about our own use of material things.
We are to use “dishonest wealth” in such a way that we “make friends for ourselves” (our most important friend being God!) and when it fails us (as it ultimately will) that “a lasting reception” will be ours. We are reminded of how the crafty steward in the parable ensured his future.
In the mind of Luke, the friends we should be making are the poor and needy who will be on our side before God’s judgement seat because we had “invested” our wealth in them. As we read in Matthew: “As often as you did it to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me” (Matt 25:40).
Earlier we saw a good example of a man who had made so much money out of his harvest that he sat back to enjoy the rest of his life – which ended that very night. That is not the way to “make friends” with one’s material goods. In one sense there is nothing wrong with having a lot of money. It is how we use it that is the question.
“If you can trust a man in little things, you can also trust him in greater.” In other words, if we can be trusted with the material goods that come into our lives and use them to build the Kingdom of God, to create a more just and equitable society, then we can be trusted with something much greater, to live forever face to face with our God.
“If you cannot be trusted with elusive wealth, who will trust you with that which lasts?” And again, “If you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s money, who will give you what is your own?” And that reminds us that the material goods that come into our lives (no matter how they may have been acquired) do not belong absolutely to us. Everything on this earth belongs to all. We are only the stewards of what has come into our possession and we will be judged on how we make use of it. On our use will depend to a large extent our receiving the one thing that will really become our own, the unending happiness that God wishes us to have in company with him.
That leads obviously to the next warning that we cannot be at the same time give ourselves totally to God and become slaves of money and the material. We saw that in the case of the rich man who wanted to follow Jesus. He was the slave of his possessions and so could not surrender his life to Jesus. Many of us think we can and we try to compromise but, to give ourselves to God completely, we must become free of the lure of money and the acquisition of material things. It does not mean we do not have money or material things but what we do have is ultimately used only for God’s love and service and the love and service of our brothers and sisters.
On hearing all this, the Pharisees, whom Luke calls “avaricious”, mocked Jesus for what they felt was unrealistic idealism. There are many today who would echo their views but those who have taken Jesus’ words to heart know that what he says is true. We have seen that in the lives of people like Mother Teresa and Dorothy Day among others. I believe that Princess Diana, with all her money and fame and luxurious living knew she did not have something precious that Mother Teresa had found – the freedom to give and share her whole self with the destitute.
“What man thinks important, God holds in contempt.” The opposite is also true. On which side do I find myself?
“You cannot serve God and mammon.”
We all need money. Who does not need money? Even St Paul needed financial assistance in his ministry. He was indeed very appreciative and grateful to those who provided for his needs. “In the early days of the Good News, as you people of Philippi well know, when I left Macedonia, no other church helped me with gifts of money. You were the only ones; and twice since my stay in Thessalonika you have sent me what I needed.” Money has its value and importance. This cannot be denied.
But it is a different thing to have a love for money. Money is a means not the end. St Paul tells us that the love of money is the root of all evils. “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs.” (1 Tim 6:9f) So the real problem is not money but the love of money. This was the case of the Pharisees who loved money as the evangelist noted.
For this reason, St Paul taught us to learn contentment. He said, “There is great gain in godliness with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world; but if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” (1 Tim 6:6-8) He said, “I have learnt to manage on whatever I have, I know how to be poor and I know how to be rich too. I have been through my initiation and now I am ready for anything anywhere: full stomach or empty stomach, poverty or plenty.” Even though money is useful and can be good for our use, there is always the temptation to greed and allow money to possess us. To avoid falling into the snare of money, we need to practice contentment and indifference with regard to money. Instead, we are called to place our trust in divine providence. He said, “There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength.”
Only when we remain detached from money, could we then use our money wisely and objectively. So long as we are attached to our money, we will look at people and situations through the lens of money rather than the lens of love and compassion. If our loved ones are sick or even when our beloved pet is sick, we would do all we can to heal them even if it costs us much money to bring them to see a doctor. Through the eyes of love, money then becomes only a means to an end. We do not hoard money as our security but we use them wisely for the good of others and ourselves.
Jesus underscored this truth when He remarked, “No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.” Indeed, if we place money above everything else, we become very calculative in how we spend money on people. But if we put God and people first before money, we would then employ our resources and wealth in such a way that they are always at the service of God and our fellowmen. It is therefore important to examine where our heart is.
The truth, as Jesus said, is that money is not the most important thing in life. He told the Pharisees, “You are the very ones who pass yourselves as virtuous in people’s sight, but God knows your hearts. For what is thought highly of by men is loathsome in the sight of God.” Money does not really belong to us. We cannot bring a single cent to the next life. Money is not meant to be kept but to be used. Money has power only when used. Otherwise, money is just paper.
What is more important is how money is used. It is a question of stewardship. Jesus reminds us, “The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great.” All of us have to answer and give an account of how we use our money and wealth. We can use them for good or for evil. Unfortunately, quite often money is used to buy power, glory and status. It is used for one’s selfish interests. Indeed, if we cannot be trusted with money, then we cannot be trusted with any real responsibilities in life. Because of money, we commit adultery and use sex to gain favours and win businesses. Because of money, we are willing to sell our soul at the expense of our spouse and family. Truly, many people because of greed cheat and steal, commit fraud and land themselves in prison whilst their family members suffer shame.
Rather, Jesus made it clear how money should be used. He advised, “I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when is fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity.” Money must be used for the good of all, especially in the promotion of friendship and unity. We use our money to help people and to bring love and joy to them. At times, money is used to bring about fellowship, especially in meals. Quite often too, many come together to raise funds for a common cause. This too strengthens the bonds among those who share a common cause, besides helping those who are their beneficiaries.
Indeed, this was how St Paul saw the purpose of money. When money is used for the good of others, the donor is twice blessed for giving away his money. He made it clear that he was not “talking about shortage of money.” Rather, he reiterated, “It is not your gift that I value; what is valuable to me is the interest that is mounting up in your account. Now for the time being I have everything that I need and more: I am fully provided now that I have received from Epaphroditus the offering that you sent, a sweet fragrance – the sacrifice that God accepts and finds pleasing. In return my God will fulfill all your needs, in Christ Jesus, as lavishly as only God can.”
St Paul rejoiced not so much that he received but that the Christians could give. In showing their generosity, it means that they have been touched by God and shared in the life of God. St Paul was happier for them than for himself who received their gifts. In giving, they received a much greater gift, the gift of God’s love and joy. What makes us happy is love and relationship. What helps us to transcend ourselves is when we are in touch with our humanity. Sharing always brings out our human emotions of compassion, sympathy and joy. That is why there are so many philanthropists around even though many do not even have faith in God. They arrive at a point in their life when they begin to ask what is there more to life than enjoyment, success and fame. Only when we are identified with our fellowmen, their joys and pains, do we become truly human and humane.
What, then, is the genuine riches that God wants to give us? He wants to give us love, friendship and joy. He said, “If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches? And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?” In other words, He wants to give us the fullness of life. Who then is the happy man? The psalmist says, “Happy the man who fears the Lord. The good man takes pity and lends, he conducts his affairs with honour. The just man will never waver: he will be remembered forever. With a steadfast heart he will not fear. Open-handed, he gives to the poor; his justice stands firm for ever. His head will be raised in glory.” Indeed, the man who is truly happy is one who trusts in the Lord, “takes delight in all his commands. His sons will be powerful on earth; the children of the upright are blessed.” With St Paul, therefore, let us trust in the Lord, that He will provide for our needs so long as we are responsible in life and use our resources for His people and for His glory.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
Tags: 2 COR 8:9, an acceptable sacrifice, Epaphroditus, everything through him who empowers me, If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another who will give you what is yours?, lk 16:9-15, My God will fully supply whatever you need, No servant can serve two masters, No servant can serve two masters -- He will either hate one and love the other, November 4 2016, November 5 2016, phil 4:10-19, pleasing to God, Prayer and Meditation, Psalm 112, Thessalonica, we have everything we need, welcomed into eternal dwellings, What man thinks important God holds in contempt, You cannot serve God and mammon