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Saturday, September 17, 2016

Make the turn-around, ASAP!


While the first reading should have a clear message for you, this Gospel should probably confuse you at first.

Amos: was a prophet who spoke to the northern half of the promised people (commonly called Israel) even though he came from the southern half (commonly called Judah).  He is sent to remind the people that their prim & proper worship rituals don't mean a thing if at the same time they are committing or allowing grave injustices to humanity - which indeed they are.  The Lord will not forget the crimes that are committed to the poor.  He will lift them up, Psalm 113 tells us.  We must not let the lures of mammon (which means money and possessions) cloud our mind from what really matters.

Mammon leads us to our Gospel reading, where we are given this interesting parable by Jesus of an unjust steward.  This man is caught cheating, like Amos warns the people of his own day.  Perhaps getting caught is the best thing that ever happened to the steward in this parable, because it forces him to face the facts that he must render an account of his actions.  And the earlier we change our wicked ways, all the better... and if we never change our wicked ways, all the worse.

So there is the first lesson we get from this dishonest man: knowing our position and responding.  The Catholic word for this is simple: repentance! (or conversion)   This is a very “John the Baptist” kind of word, and he himself used fiery images to wake up the people of his own day.  Repent in Hebrew shoov means to turn around, to do a 180, and that's exactly what this man does today.  He knows that he needs to make quick changes if he is going to fix the situation, and he takes the drastic measures he needs.

The Greek word for repentance or conversion is METANOIA, and this will lead us to our next lesson from this Gospel.  Metanoia means to transform our way of thinking, and this dishonest steward spent his time thinking always about money and profit: how can I get ahead of others, get them to be literally indebted to me.  The funny thing is he turns this thought process on its head when he realizes he is up a creek, since his leverage on the locals is about to completely disappear.  So what does he do?  He flips to forgiveness, to mercy, to cutting the debts of the people he used.  By helping them out of their tough times, they will love him and help him out when his come around.  Talk about a true metanoia, a transformation of mind.  This man shows us how to realize our situation and respond.

Often we are temped to think, like in the time of Amos, that we are on top of the world and nothing can bring us down, but this parable reminds us that there will be an accounting for all of us.
In fact, this parable may be the best example of the prayer we pray at every single Mass: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Let us ask the Lord Jesus to help us to realize our sinfulness, our debts toward God and others, and make up for them by forgiving others ourselves.

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