This week we begin our two-part study of Social Justice. What does that have to do with becoming a Catholic, you ask? Everything! Jesus taught us that we needed to “love our neighbors,” but what exactly does that mean? Our readings for this week should help us to understand this idea better…
The Word for the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time:
Psalm 113:1-2, 4-6, 7-8
1 Timothy 2:1-8
We open with a reading from the prophet Amos… and if there ever were an example of fiery prophetic rage and divine justice, it’s Amos. A Southern prophet during the height of the Jewish kingdoms (some 150 years before the Exile), Amos, a shepherd by trade, was called to the life of a prophet to rail against the injustice and hypocrisy he saw all around him. Our passage this week is thick with meaning, and if not read or proclaimed correctly, can cause us to mis-understand its meaning. This is a classic rant he’s giving to the rich (…”you who trample upon the needy…”), warning them of their day of reckoning, but this warning is only the frame of a complex passage where at the heart of it, Amos is quoting the minds of the rich men bent on oppressing the poor. As with much of Amos, this is not contemplative reading, but rather much better understood when read aloud as a fiery sermon.
Our second reading, a continuation of our Pauline letters to Timothy, is not entirely out of place here. We pray for our leaders, and everyone else, not just those in the community. This reminds us that justice is for all, and that we pray our secular leadership sees this need.
Our Gospel, another story unique to Luke, is no less difficult to unpack. The Parable of the Unjust Stewart would seem, on its surface, to praise the steward for his guile, but like Amos, Jesus is condemning him. Within his condemnation Jesus also gives us a warning… that we cannon serve both God and mammon (wealth). But it is important to note that this gospel is not so much a condemnation of wealth as it is a condemnation of dishonesty. If that were not enough, it also subtlety reminds us that we are all stewards… called to protect God’s creation during our short stay here, and called to help those in need. I expect these readings will lead to some interesting discussion.