Fr. Dumisani Vilakati, Diocese of Manzini, Eswatini
Amos 8:4-7, Psalm 113, 1 Timothy 2:1-8, Luke 16:1-13
The Christian life is rooted in a relationship with Christ in such a way that this makes a profound impact in the value system of the one who has embraced Christ. With the choice for Jesus, everything is thus done through him, with him and in him.
The first reading from the prophet Amos recalls a moment of difficulty for the poor people in the Northern Kingdom of Israel in the eighth century BC. It is clear that the rulers and the wealthy appear to be religious as they keep religious festivals connected with the new moon and the Sabbath. Their value system is distorted though as they oppress the poor and the needy. Amos sees such behaviour as abhorrent and goes so far as to say the Lord will never forget the thing these people have done. Not long after this prophesy of Amos, the Northern Kingdom of Israel was run over by the Assyrians. Both the wealthy and the rulers lost all their possessions which included the land of Israel as they were driven off to far off lands into exile. Everything thus came to nought.
The psalm comes from the part of the Psalter called the Egyptian Hallel, sung at the Jewish Feast of the Passover. We can thus discern a liberation perspective as it speaks of the lowly being lifted from the dust and the poor from the dunghill so that the Lord may seat them with princes. With the psalm, and indeed the Exodus story, we get a clear image of God who is close to the poor and oppressed and never abandons them. With the world full of so many poor, we Christians, having embraced a divine value system, have every reason to be close to them and to shun every form of oppression and exploitation. The perennial scandal is to have so many people faithfully observing various religious festivals and on the other hand continuously engaged in the exploitation and oppression of other people.
The reading from the letter of Paul to Timothy speaks of the importance of good governance. Paul implores Timothy to pray for kings and all in authority. A reason for why these prayers should be offered is indicated. “So that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity”. The prayer is thus not for them to remain in their positions but it is for the advancement of devotion unto God and the promotion of human dignity.
In the gospel Jesus invokes a value system of someone who wishes to remain with his friends at all costs. He cheats his master so that he may be granted favours all the time. The steward does this by granting favours to those who owe the master. The story applauds the unfaithful steward not because what he did was eternally right but because he was able to achieve what he had set out to do. The lesson for us is to be wise. We should work for the real treasure so that we may be welcomed into eternal dwellings. Clearly, a constant preoccupation with money is not perceived as the way for Jesus’ disciples to choose. Our preoccupation should be on those things of God which enhance our devotion to him and promote human dignity. Let us focus on these two things therefore, devotion to God and the promotion of human dignity. With the money we may have therefore, we should enhance our worship of the one God and attend to the needs of all, especially the poor.