Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
- Amos 8:4-7
- 1 Timothy 2:1-8
- Luke 16:1-13
Found in today’s readings at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time are three of the most difficult passages in the Year-C liturgical calendar, but allow me a moment to walk you through them.
Today’s First Reading from Amos 8:4-7 belongs to a collection of five visions from the prophet Amos that begin in chapter seven. As with the previous three visions, this fourth one begins with God showing the prophet Amos something, asking him what he sees, and then explaining to Amos the meaning and significance of what he sees. In the first two visions, God pulls back His judgment in response to Amos’ intercession, but in the final three visions, the wrath of God is carried out.
In today’s instance, verse four opens up with a proclamation from God about the reason for judgment, saying, “Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land!” The text then shows God dialoguing with those He is judging according to their own thoughts, saying, “When will the new moon be over . . . that we may sell our grain and the Sabbath, that we may display the wheat?” This concerns a matter of the heart; the wicked here are exalting their love of wealth above God. They are worshiping the treasure of their heart, which is not God. They have more of a concern for these holy days to conclude so that they can resume their business, rather than attending to the observance and calling of the holy days. Now, before we reap our own judgment upon these souls, let us recall in our own hearts the things that are circulating in our minds, while we are at Mass. Is your heart truly immersed into the presence of God while you are participating in the liturgy?
The following dialogues then show that these wicked hearts are not only idolatrous in placing money above God, but they cheat their own brothers and sisters to obtain it. “We will diminish the ephah, add to the shekel, and fix our scales for cheating! We will buy the lowly for silver and the poor for a pair of sandals; even the refuse of the wheat we will sell!” The immorality on display here is that the wicked are literally measuring their happiness according to how much wealth they can accumulate. Again, be slow to judge these men. For, the liturgy of the memorial sacrifice is trying to teach us to measure our happiness according to what Christ Jesus has sacrificed for us, but how many of you are measuring your happiness by what you have done for yourself?
Today’s Second Reading is from 1 Timothy 2:1-8. We should recall that Timothy was like a spiritual son to Saint Paul and Paul was like a father to the young Timothy (Cf. Philippians 2:22). Timothy, at this time, had been given charge over an established Church community in Ephesus but reached out to Paul for help on the structure of the liturgy and on methods of Church governance, and in this pastoral letter, Paul will touch on a number of topics concerning those areas. In the instant case, we do not know what Timothy had asked Paul about specifically, but from the tone of this chapter it is perhaps clear that Timothy wanted to know what prayers should be offered during what we refer to today during the liturgy of the Mass as the Universal Prayer or Prayer of the Faithful or Bidding Prayer. To this Paul writes, “First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” This knowledge of the truth that Paul is referring to, he then defines by inserting a preexisting short creedal teaching, “For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all.” This short creed sounds like an abbreviated version of Creeds we recite during the liturgy of the Mass today. Paul then says that this creed was “the testimony at the proper time,” meaning that it belongs to the revealed kerygma (i.e. preaching) of the Church.
The Gospel Reading today from Luke 16:1-13 contains the parable of the Dishonest Steward, but is a parable that has to be read in union with last Sunday’s parable about the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Prodigal Son and His Brother, but those parables where given by Jesus to the Pharisees and the scribes who were hypocritically judging Him for eating with sinners. Now in today’s reading, while his interlocutors are still there, Jesus turns to His disciples and speaks about those who are judging Him through this parable about the Dishonest Steward who before he is dismissed from his lofty position, treats his master’s debtors with mercy and favor, so that they might warmly welcome him into their community.
Notice that Jesus did not give a final conclusion or summary of the lesson after the Parable of the Prodigal Son and His Brother, but now after telling His Disciples the parable of the Dishonest Steward, He sums both of those parables up in this way, saying, “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 both God and mammon [that is, wealth].” The text from verses 14-15 then says, “The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all of this, and they scoffed at him. But he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts; for what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”
Together, these readings at the Holy Mass this Sunday point to the things that the liturgy is teaching us to exalt so that we might find true wealth. True wealth does not come by the methods of dishonest gain found in the world that we heard from the First and Gospel Readings today. Rather, paradoxically, true wealth is found in the poverty of Christ Jesus, who had nothing to ransom for our salvation, but His very life. For His sacrifice was the only thing that God could accept to pay the price for our sins, because in sacrificing His Son, the Father Himself paid the price for us. In this way, through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the liturgy orients us to be poor in Christ, so that our wealth will be secure in eternity.
This is just one way how the readings at Mass this Sunday connect to the liturgy and how the liturgy is forming us how to live our lives in the world. Be in the world what you have received through the liturgy.