Scripture in Depth
Reading I: Amos 8: 4-7
Amos, the prophet of social justice par excellence, denounces the rich who just cannot wait for the new moon festival or the sabbath day to be over so that they may engage in business and make profits, cheating and exploiting the poor in the process. He threatens them with divine judgment.
Responsorial Psalm: 113: 1-2, 4-6, 7-8
This is one of the first Hallel psalms (113-118), so called because they begin with “Alleluia” and celebrate the mighty acts of YHWH. Verses 7-8 provide a striking contrast to verses 4-6, between the majesty of YHWH and his condescension to the “poor.” It is doubtless because of these final verses, with their reference to God’s vindication of the poor, that this psalm was chosen as a response to the reading from Amos.
Much of 1 Timothy consists of a Church order, setting out the duties of the Church’s ministry and (so here) describing the liturgical activities of the Christian assembly. It represents an attempt on the part of the Pauline churches to consolidate their life after the pioneering missionary work of the Apostle.
Since the time of Cyrus, the Jewish community had prayed even for its pagan rulers, and the Church continues this practice. Such prayer recognizes the function of the state in relation to the gospel.
If the state functions properly, it creates those outward conditions of tranquility under which the gospel may be preached and the life of the community may flourish.
This positive view of the function of the state is found in most places in the New Testament (see especially Rom 13). But there is another side to the state—its potentially demonic side (Rev 13).
Yet even the demonic state continues to fulfill some of its God-given functions of maintaining domestic peace and justice (there were police even in Nazi Germany, and they were not all brutal).
To that extent it still merits the prayers and obedience of the Christian community, even if at other points some kind of resistance is the order of the day.
Gospel: Luke 16: 1-13 or 10-13
The Gospel consists of the parable of the unjust steward, followed by a string of sayings on the right use of wealth. These sayings probably did not originally belong to the parable, for the parable itself hardly intends to hold up the unjust steward as an example of the right use of wealth!
Taken by itself, the parable is a challenge of Jesus to his contemporaries to
make a drastic decision for the coming kingdom of God before it is too late (cf. the parable of the wise and the foolish virgins).
The string of sayings gives a new application to the parable: the disciples are to show as much intelligence in the use of wealth as the unjust steward did in his own interests.
Reginald H. Fuller
**From Saint Louis University