I have just returned from a wonderful pilgrimage to Medjugorje, it was so peaceful and filled with prayerful experiences. While I was away, we have changed Prime Minister, which was expected and changed our Monarch due to the sad death of Queen Elizabeth. It was no coincidence that our queen died on the birthday of the Queen of Heaven and therefore it is no coincidence that we are asked to pray for ‘kings and others in authority’ in our second reading today.
The reason St Paul asks for prayers is ‘so that we may be able to live religious and reverent lives in peace and quiet.’ It is not so long ago in this country that Roman Catholics were not able to practice our religion in peace and quiet, a fact alluded to by one of the BBC commentators during one of the programmes marking the Queen’s final journey who spoke about John Knox ‘clearing Catholics from Scotland’, drawing laughter from fellow presenters. The BBC have issued an apology, but I suspect had this been any other religion or Community then there would have been wider coverage from other parts of the media.1
In today’s first reading from the Book of Amos, we are reminded that we have to be fair in all of our dealings. Amos tells us that God is watching and mentions the various ways that people swindled other people during his days. How different is it today? Do the poor in our society get fairness? Look at how people are able to pay for their electricity and gas bills, those with reliable incomes can get a discount for setting up direct debits, while those on lower incomes who perhaps can’t commit to regular payments find themselves paying a higher amount using cards which can be topped up in local shops. Is this fair?
Is it fair that energy companies are allowed to make vast profits while the price of fuel puts people at risk of having to decide whether to eat or keep their homes warm? This reading asks us to look at how we interact with other people. Do we treat everyone with respect? Do we respect their dignity? This is not just about money; this is about recognising that our fellow men and women are created by God just like we are.
In the Gospel today we hear a parable about a dishonest steward who having been found wanting, is told to prepare to leave his job. His preparations are not about a good handover to his successor, ensuring continuity and good stewardship for his Master. His preparations are all about trying to make his own future more secure. He does this by swindling his Master and drawing others into his sin. The others in the parable are just as guilty as he is, they are only too ready to reduce what they owe, perhaps not realising that they have compromised themselves, perhaps not realising that they now owe two people: their master and the crooked steward. Anyone who has seen the Godfather films will know that favours are always called in and usually at a time which is inconvenient.
How keen are we to take advantage of a situation? Do we always stick to our principles? What if someone offered to do a job for us at a discount for cash? I know there have been times when I have taken advantage of this. We all enjoy a bargain, but at what expense?
Jesus is telling us that we cannot be the slave of two masters and emphasises that we ‘cannot be the slave both of God and money.’ For the times when we have compromised this, have we taken it to the confessional? Have we resolved not to allow ourselves to be compromised again?
Jesus asks us to be honest in our dealings with everyone, to pay a fair price, to pay a fair wage to look out for the poor and to speak up when we see or hear about injustice. For example, given the choice, do we choose Fairtrade products over others which are perhaps cheaper? When we compromise any of these, we risk becoming slaves to money, which Jesus calls ‘tainted’. If we use money to earn people’s respect, by showing off our wealth or if we use it to take advantage of others by not paying the going rate or avoiding paying tax then we risk becoming slaves to money or perhaps we already are?
If, however we are good stewards of the money we have, we share proportionately what we have with the poor and look after the people we interact with, with respect then we will win friends in heaven. Jesus is telling us that it is better to be rewarded in heaven than to reward ourselves here on earth.
Three years ago, these were the readings when I preached at St Bede’s for the first time and I spoke then about our heavenly bank account, this is an account that does not accept money. Deposits to our heavenly bank account can only be made when we love God and our neighbour. The times when we are honest in our dealings with others, the times when we don’t join in other people’s sins to take advantage of a bargain and the times when we call out injustice for what it is.
In those three years, how much have we invested in our heavenly bank account?
In those three years how much interest have we gained?
Jesus tells us we do not know the hour or the day when we He will call us, when He calls us to account will we reap the dividend of our investments or be found wanting?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
CCC 2407-2414: respect for the property of others
CCC 2443-2449: love for the poor
CCC 2635: pray for others’ interest, not just for one’s own
CCC 65-67, 480, 667: Christ our one Mediator
CCC 2113, 2424, 2848: no one can serve two masters
CCC 1900, 2636: intercession for rulers
Please keep in your prayers this week
- The Ukrainian and Russian people, may they be able to live in peace.
- Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
- All those struggling to feed their families at this time.
- All the priests who will be moving to new roles this September.
- All prisoners and their families.
- Those working to help the people struggling with the cost of living crisis.
- Those in business who have the power to make decisions to help the poor.
- World Leaders that all can practice their religion in peace.