Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 22, 2019 Cycle C

by Rev. Jose Maria Cortes, F.S.C.E., Chaplain,
Saint John Paul II National Shrine,
 Washington, D.C.

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In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Today’s readings invite us to examine our attitudes toward money. In today’s Gospel, Jesus clearly says: “You cannot serve both God and mammon” (Lk 16:13). In the second reading, Saint Paul says: “For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as ransom for all” (1 Tim 2:5–6).

Wealth can easily become the focus of our hopes. Instead of trusting fully in God, we stealthily place our trust in what we have or should like to have. We worry and become anxious, fearing that we shall not have enough.  Jesus says: "So do not worry and say, 'What are we to eat? or 'What are we to drink?' or 'What are we to wear?  All these things the pagans seek.  Your heavenly Father know that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom (of God,) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides” (Mt 6:31‒33). That is why we say in the Lord’s Prayer: “Give us our daily bread.” Psalm 34 declares: “Fear the LORD, you his holy ones; nothing is lacking to those who fear him. The rich grow poor and go hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing” (Ps 34:10–11).

Avarice, the excessive pursuit of material goods, is one of the seven capital sins. What we have is never enough and we always want more.

We cannot follow Christ without living the virtue of poverty. What Jesus asks of the young rich man remains the ideal for everyone to emulate: "You are lacking in one thing.  Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."  (Mk 10:21).  Of course, there is a different way of living evangelical poverty in each state of life. Parents with children are not called to live poverty in the same way as a Franciscan friar!

Along with fasting and prayer, almsgiving is one of the three pillars of the spiritual life. Almsgiving purifies us from excessive attachment to material goods and delivers us from the love of money. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews wrote: “Let your life be free from love of money but be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never forsake you or abandon you’” (Heb 13:5).

We cannot live the virtue of poverty and be insensitive to the fate of the poor. In today’s first reading, the prophet Amos accuses many of his contemporaries of mistreating the poor: “Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land!” (Am 8:4). However, our care for the poor is not philanthropy. Our love for Christ makes us love the poor and find Christ himself in them. Saint Teresa of Calcutta served the poorest of the poor because she encountered Jesus Christ in them: “[…] whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40).

Today’s alleluia verse before the Gospel says: “Though our Lord Jesus Christ was rich, he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” This verse tells us that poverty is not an end but a means to achieve true riches. Christian poverty is to renounce whatever prevents us from becoming rich in God. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus proclaims: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:3). In today’s prayer after Communion, we pray: “Graciously raise up, O Lord, those you renew with this Sacrament, that we may come to possess your redemption.”

“You cannot serve both God and mammon.” Let us ask for the grace to serve God, and God alone. In serving God, may we find true contentment and treasure.  Amen.

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