Where Your Treasure Lies

As we continue to ponder works of mercy, dwelling upon and carrying out acts that make the love of Christ both visible and concrete, we come to this Sunday’s readings, which call us to reform how we relate to earthly wealth and to one another.

The first reading, from Amos, sets the stage for us, giving context to the parables Jesus will offer in the Gospel. Putting it simply, the poor and needy are abused in various ways, sold for profit and devalued; this is an offense to God.

Today, this may sound somewhat obvious, but it is also clear that these offenses have not ceased. The least among us still struggle not only for the necessities of life, but even for life itself. Let us be clear, the offenses against the poor, and by extension against God, remain rampant.

The psalm response offers praise to God, “who lifts up the poor.” In this, we know that God is the ally of the lowly. The third “verse” of the psalm then sheds clearer light on what the Lord really wants us to understand: “He raises up the lowly from the dust; from the dunghill he lifts up the poor to seat them with princes, with the princes of his own people.” God puts the poor on a par with the royal.

God’s design has more to do with wiping away the distinctions between persons according to means or might. For example, Paul tells us that prayers are to be offered for the small and the great alike, “that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth. For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all (Timothy 2:2b-6).”

Before unpacking that treasure chest, however, I want to point to the Gospel for today, which further strengthens the message: we should distrust the security offered by wealth, as it will fail us, especially when we are called to judgment for the lives we lead.

The key, as always, is Jesus. He is the mediator; he is the one who will judge, as God, though he became a man himself.

The Mystery of the Incarnation changes the rules and “lifts up the poor,” both lowly and princely. So, whether rich or poor, each human person is entitled to “a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity,” free from oppression. Therefore, our mandate is to work to provide this opportunity for one another and for the stranger in our midst. Note here that “dignity” is the difficult part and requires the most change in our world.

Like the dishonest steward in the Gospel, we must become rich in true wealth by detachment from “dishonest wealth.” We are encouraged to use worldly wealth to build up those around us, so that by our living mercy, we may so empty ourselves of attachment to the fleeting pleasures of earth as to find in God our real treasure.

David M. Dunst

 

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