Am 8.4 – 7; Ps 112; 1 Tim 2.1 – 8; Lk 16.1 – 13
Is 43, 24c-44.3; Ps 32; Heb 11.39 to 12.4; Jn 5.25 to 36
Third Sunday after the martyrdom of St. John the Precursor
1) Praise of intelligence.
Last Sunday, the lectures chosen from the Gospel of St. Luke made us think on the dangers of an egoistic attachment to money, material goods, and everything that prevents us from living to the full our vocation to love God and our brothers. Today also through a parable a bit ‘amazing’ because it tells of a dishonest administrator who is praised (see Lk 16.1 to 13), St. Luke offers to his disciples and to us, a serious and useful teaching about the proper administration of the world’s goods and the management of life in a filial relationship with God.
In the clever administrator we can recognize our history. Every disciple, namely each of us, is a steward of the Lord to whom He entrusts the earth and its assets, first of all the brothers in humanity.
The word “administrator” occurs seven times in the parable and therefore should be taken seriously. The Greek text uses “Economos”(echoed by oikos: home and nomos: law), which in English can be translated as “the one who gives the law of the house.”
It is natural to ask ourselves the following questions: “What law we offer to our home, to our existence, to the house of God, the holy temple of God’s presence?”; “What is the law that regulates our thoughts, our choices, our actions and relationships?”; “Is the Lord Jesus, the end and the aim of it (see Rom 10: 4), our law?”; “Do we agree, in our hearts, to the law of God (see Rom 7: 22), that is, do we live deeply or superficially, casually, without love, without the purity of a heart that lets be reached by its Lord?” ; “Is the house we are called to administer based on the law that finds its full fulfillment in the love for our brothers (see Romans 13: 8,10) whom we must accept as they are and with whom we must share their burdens, hardships, pains and poverty (see Gal 6: 2)? “.
The answer to these questions is a yes determined, clever and even smart, if we want to take into account today’s parable.
In fact, the Messiah presents this “steward” not as a model to follow in his dishonesty, but as an example to be imitated for his farsighted guile. Jesus wants his disciples to have the same determination of this administrator. He was smart preserving himself; may the disciple be as smart in “managing” his life and his dwelling dedicating himself to the Kingdom. Of course the administrator and the disciple belong to two different logics, the first to the logic of the world and the second to the logic of the Kingdom.
The dishonest and shrewd administrator says to himself: “What shall I do now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me? I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg” (Lk 16, 3). And immediately he finds a smart and dishonest solution to survive.
The honest but smart or, with a more positive adjective, intelligent disciple not only seeks to administer ethically the goods entrusted to him, but hastens to do what the other administrator says that he does not want to do, ” to dig” (it is the literal meaning of the Greek word which was translated as to hoe) nor ” to beg” because he does not have the strength or is ashamed.
Let’s welcome the invitation of the book of Proverbs to search for wisdom as we would do for the most precious treasures (Pr 2, 4). Digging with hands, heart and mind. Digging deeper, every day, forever and until the end of life, to seek the Lord, his face, and his word.
To dig the depths of the earth and of the human mind and heart to seek God is a job necessary to live as men.
We must fortify our weak hands by putting them together in prayer. We must make firm our feeble knees and start working for the Gospel, sweating and working hard to seek the Lord, our real treasure, in order to “administer” it in communion and sharing.
2) To beg
We should ask for the force to dig, then the search becomes begging. The search for God, the request for Him and to see His face, is not just an adherence to a set of dogmas that would quench the thirst for God present in man, beggar for the Infinite and for words of eternal life .
Commenting on Psalm 104, which invites us to “always seek the face of God”, Saint Augustine writes that this invitation is valid not only for this life but for eternity. The discovery of “God’s face” is never exhausted. The more we enter into the splendor of divine love, the more beautiful is to go forward in the search, so that “to the extent that love grows , grows the search for the One who has been found” (En. In Ps. 104.3: CCL 40, 1537).
We are not beings for death (see Heidegger, Being and Time), but for life and we beg to live eternally. The beggar of God seeks the Bread of life and the power given by this bread let him begin and persevere on the path to life.
Certainly, if we look only to the appearances, the immediate evidence is that life seems like a long journey towards death that has, as a tomb, a monument which, when it is artistically beautiful, is the glorification of death.
If, as suggested by Pope Francis, we look to life with three anxieties, that of the mind, that of the encounter with God and that of love, we will be pilgrims towards life. In begging let us be pilgrims, going from death to life.
The important thing is to continue to beg, not to close on ourselves. The essential is to continue to seek the truth, the ultimate and definitive meaning of life, never ceasing to seek the face of God.
This anxiety of the mind is the restless desire to seek a personal encounter with God. In fact, the restlessness to know the truth and the meaning of life, is not to have some good thoughts in mind but to meet God, the meaning of life that in Christ reveals the good and merciful face of fate. In this encounter with the One who is the Word of Life and says words of eternal life, we experience the God who is near. We are led to understand that the God we seek outside ourselves and away from us, is the God who is near every human being, the God close to our heart, more intimate to us than ourselves (see Saint Augustine, Confessions, III, 6:11). However, we must not stop knowing and meeting God. The restless journey continues. The path leads to the third uneasiness: that of love.
What is the unrest of love? “It is always seeking, relentlessly, the good for the other, the beloved, with an intensity which leads to tears. I can think of Jesus who weeps at the grave of his friend Lazarus, of Peter who, after he denied Jesus, meets the rich look of mercy and love and cries bitterly, of the Father who awaits the return of the child on the terrace, and, when he is still far away, runs to meet him; I am reminded of the Virgin Mary who lovingly follows her Son Jesus to the Cross. “(Pope Francis, Homily August 28, 2013).
3) Anxiety and virginity.
In virginity the uneasiness of love becomes begging, which places the human being in steady and constant search for Christ. In fact, “virginity is not lack of desire, but intensity of desire” (Saint Teresa of Avila). Virginity has not entered the world as a philosophy, it came as a gift of God who calls us to a communion solid, deep and exclusive with Christ. The fact that virginity is exclusive does not imply that it is exclusionary, because in the love for God there is the love for the neighbor.
Pushed by unconditional love for Christ and humanity, especially the poor and the suffering, the consecrated Virgins live as “beggars of Heaven” (Jacques Maritain) and “play in their daily lives the earthly life of Jesus, chaste, poor and obedient “(Pope Francis, Ap. Cons. Vultum Dei querere, 5; see. St. John Paul II, Vita consecrata, n. 14).
It’s true that being in love with God and the neighbor concerns all believers, as St. Augustine wrote: “The beautiful garden of the Lord, brethren, has not only the roses of martyrs, but also the lilies of virgins, the ivy of those who live in marriage, the violets of widows. No group of people should doubt his call: Christ died for all “(Speeches, 304.3).
It is equally true that the consecrated Virgins in the world, living in poor, obedient and chaste detachment from self, from everyone and everything, testify in a higher and radical way that the One who alone can and is missing to the human heart, is the Son of God made flesh, present in the world. Virginity in the world is, in fact, the supreme witness that everything is in function of Christ, and shows to those who work and to those who marry that everything is for Christ.
The consecrated Virgins testify that even in the world we can give priority to God and that only when He is at the center of the everyday thoughts and work, personal life and society with its dynamism can find their proper orientation and full meaning. However, where God does not occupy the first place, where God is not recognized and worshiped as the Supreme Good, there the human dignity is in jeopardy. In a world where selfishness and the pursuit of pleasure dictate the law, the consecrated Virgins are the guardians of purity, unselfishness, compassion and true human dignity.
Saint Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430)
On the words of the gospel, Lc 16,9 “Make to yourselves friends by means of the mammon of unrighteousness,”
- Our duty is to give to others the admonitions we have received ourselves. The recent lesson of the Gospel has admonished us to make friends of the mammon of iniquity, that they too may” receive “those who do so” into everlasting habitations.” But who are they that shall have everlasting habitations, but the hints of God? And who are they who are to be received by them into everlasting habitations, but they who serve their need, and minister cheerfully to their necessities? Accordingly let us remember, that in the last judgment the Lord will say to thosewho shall stand on His right hand, “I was an hungred, and ye gave Me meat;” and the rest which ye know. And upon their enquiring when they had afforded these good offices to Him, He answered, “When ye did it to one of the least of Mine, ye did it unto Me.”1 These least are they who receive into everlasting habitations. This He said to them on the right hand, because they did so: and the contrary He said to them on the left, because they would not. But what have they on the right hand who did so, received, or rather, what are they to receive? “Come,” says He, “ye blessed of My Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was an hungred, and ye gave Me meat. When ye did it to one of the least of Mine, ye did it unto Me.”2 Who then are these least ones of Christ? They are those who have left all they had, and followed Him, and have distributed whatever they had to the poor; that unencumbered and without any worldly fetter they might serve God, and might lift their shoulders free from the burdens of the world, and winged as it were aloft. These are the least. And why the least? Because lowly, because not puffed up, not proud. Yet weigh them in the scales, these least ones, and thou wilt find them a heavy weight.
- But what means it, that He says they are “friends of the mammon of iniquity “? What is “the mammon of iniquity “? First, what is “mammon “? For it is not a Latin word. It is a Hebrew word, and cognate to the Punic language. For these languages are allied to one another by a kind of nearness of signification.What the Punics call mammon, is called in Latin, “lucre “3 What the Hebrews call mammon, is called in Latin, “riches.” That we may express the whole then in Latin, our Lord Jesus Christ says this, “Make to yourselves friends of the riches of iniquity.” Some, by a bad understanding of this, plunder the goods of others, and bestow some of that upon the poor, and so think that they do what is enjoined them. For they say, “To plunder the goods of others, is the mammon of iniquity; to spend some of it, especially on the poor saints, this is to make friends with the mammon of iniquity. This understanding of it must be corrected, yea, must be utterly effaced from the tablets of your heart. I would not that ye should so understand it. Give alms of your righteous labours: give out of that which ye possess rightfully. For ye cannot corrupt Christ your Judge, that He should not hear you together with the poor, from whom ye take away. For if thou wert to despoil any one who was weak, thyself being stronger and of greater power, and he were to come with thee to the judge, any man you please on this earth, who had any power of judging, and he were to wish to plead his cause with thee; if thou wert to give anything of the spoil and plunder of that poor man to the judge, that he might pronounce judgment in thy favour; would that judge please even thee? True, he has pronounced judgment in thy favour, and yet so great is the force of justice, that he would displease even thee. Do not then represent God to thyself as such an one as this. Do not set up such an idol in the temple of thine heart. Thy God is not such as thou oughtest not to be thyself. If thou wouldest not judge so, but wouldest judge justly; even so thy God is better than thou: He is not inferior to thee: He is more just, He is the fountain of justice. Whatsoever good thou hast done, thou hast gotten from Him; and whatsoever good thou hast given vent to,4 thou hast drunk in from Him. Dost thou praise the vessel, because it hath something from Him, and blame the fountain? Do not give alms out of usury and increase. I am speaking to the faithful, am speaking to those to whom we distribute the body of Christ. Be in fear and amend yourselves: that I may not have hereafter to say, Thou doest so, and thou too doest so. Yet I trow, that if I should do so, ye ought not to be angry with me, but with yourselves, that ye may amend yourselves. For this is the meaning of the expression in the Psalm, “Be ye angry, and sin not.”5 I would have you be angry, but only that ye may not sin. Now in order that ye may not sin, with whom ought ye to be angry but with yourselves? For what is a penitent man, but a man who is angry with himself? That he may obtain pardon, he exacts punishment from himself; and so with good right says to God, “Turn Thine eyes from my sins, for I acknowledge my sin.”6 If thou acknowledgest it, then He will pardon it. Ye then who have done so wrongly, do so no more: it is not lawful.
- But if ye have done so already, and have such money in your possession, and have filled your coffers thereby, and were heaping up treasure by these means: what ye have comes of evil, now then add not evil to it, and make to yourselves friends of the mammon of iniquity. Had Zacchaeus what he had from good sources?7 Read and see. He was the chief of the publicans, that is, he was one to whom the public taxes were paid in: by this he had his wealth. He had oppressed many, had taken from many, and so had heaped much together. Christ entered into his house, and salvation came upon his house; for so said the Lord Himself, “This day is salvation come to this house.”8 Now mark the method of this salvation. First he was longing to see the Lord, because he was little in stature: but when the crowd hindered him, he got up into a sycamore tree, and saw Him as He passed by. But Jesus saw him, and said, “Zacchaeus, come down, I must abide at thy house.” Thou art hanging there, but I will not keep thee in suspense. I will not, that is, put thee off. Thou didst wish to see Me as I passed by, to-day shalt thou find Me dwelling at thy house. So the Lord went in unto him, and he, filled with joy, said, “The half of my goods I give to the poor.” Lo, how swiftly he runs, who runs to make friends of the mammon of iniquity. And lest he should be held guilty on any other account, he said, “If I have taken anything from any man, I” will “restore fourfold.” He inflicted sentence of condemnation on himself, that he might not incur damnation. So then, ye who have anything from evil sources, do good therewith. Ye who have not, wish not to acquire by evil means. Be thou good thyself, who doest good with what is evilly acquired: and when with this evil thou beginnest to do any good, do not remain evil thyself. Thy money is being converted to good, and dost thou thyself continue evil?
- There is indeed another way of understanding it; and I will not withhold it too. The mammon of iniquity is all the riches of this world, from whatever source they come. For howsoever they be heaped together, they are the mammon of iniquity, that is, the riches of iniquity. What is, “they are the riches of iniquity “? It is money which iniquity calls by the name of riches. For if we seek for the true riches, they are different from these. In these Job abounded,naked as he was, when he had a heart full to Godward, and poured out praises like most costly gems to his God, when he had lost all he had.9 And from what treasure did he this, if he had nothing? These then are the true riches. But the other sort are called riches by iniquity. Thou dost possess these riches. I blame it not: an inheritance has come to thee, thy father was rich, and he left it to thee. Or thou hast honestly acquired them: thou hast a house full of the fruit of just labour; I blame it not. Yet even thus do not call them riches. For if thou dost call them riches, thou wilt love them: and if thou love them, thou wilt perish with them. Lose, that thou be not lost: give, that thou mayest gain: sow, that thou mayest reap. Call not these riches, for “the true” they are not. They are full of poverty, and liable ever to accidents. What sort of riches are those, for whose sake thou art afraid of the robber, for whose sake thou art afraid of thine own servant, lest he should kill thee, and take them away, and fly? If they were true riches, they would give thee security.
- So then those are the true riches, which when we have them, we cannot lose. And lest haply thou shouldest fear a thief because of them, they will be there where none can take them away. Hear thy Lord, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where no thief approacheth.”10 Then will they be riches, when thou hast removed them hence. As long as they are in the earth, they are not riches. But the world calls them riches, iniquity calls them so. God calls them therefore the mammon of iniquity, because iniquity calls them riches. Hear the Psalm, “O Lord, deliver me out of the hand of strange children, whose mouth hath spoken vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of iniquity. Whose sons are as new plants, firmly rooted from their youth. Their daughters decked out, adorned round about after the similitude of a temple. Their storehouses full, flowing out from this into that. Their oxen fat, their sheep fruitful, multiplying in their goings forth. There is no breach of wall, nor going forth, no crying out in their streets.”11 Lo, what sort of happiness the Psalmist has described: but hear what is the case with them whom he has set forth as children of iniquity. “Whose mouth hath spoken vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of iniquity.” Thus has he set them forth, and said that their happiness is only upon the earth. And what did he add? “They are happy the people that hath these things.” But who caller them so? “Strange children,” aliens from the race, and belonging not to the seed of Abraham: they “called the people happy that hath these things.” Who called them so? “They whose mouth hath spoken vanity.” It is a vain thing then to call them happy who have these things. And yet they are called so by them, “whose mouth hath spoken vanity.” By them the “mammon of iniquity” of the Gospel is called riches.
- But what sayest thou? Seeing that these “strange children” that they “whose mouth hath spoken vanity,” have “called the people happy that hath these things,” what sayest thou? These are false riches, show me the true. Thou findest fault with these, show me what thou praisest. Thou wishest me to despise these, show me what to prefer. Let the Psalmist speak himself. For he who said, “they called the people happy that hath these things,” gives us such an answer, as if we had said to him, that is, to the Psalmist12 himself, “Lo, this thou hast taken away from us, and nothing hast thou given us: lo, these, lo, these we despise; whereby shall we live, whereby shall we be happy? For they who have spoken, they will undertake to answer13 for themselves. For they have ‘called’ men ‘who have’ riches ‘happy.’ But what sayest thou?” As if he had been thus questioned, he makes answer and says, They call the rich happy: but I say, “Happy are the people whose is the Lord their God.” Thus then thou hast heard of the true riches, make friends of the mammon of iniquity, and thou shalt be “a happy people, whose is the Lord their God.” At times we go along the way, and see very pleasant and productive estates, and we say, “Whose estate is that?” We are told, “such a man’s;” and we say, “Happy man!”We “speak vanity.” Happy he whose is that house, happy he whose that estate, happy he whose that flock, happy he whose that servant, happy he whose is that household. Take away vanity if Thou wouldest hear the truth. “Happy he whose is the Lord” his “God.” For not he who has that estate is happy: but he whose is that “God.” But in order to declare most plainly the happiness of possessions, thou sayest that thy estate has made thee happy. And why? Because thou livest by it. For when, thou dost highly praise thine estate, thou sayest thus,” It finds me food, I live by it.” Consider whereby thou dost really live. He by whom thou livest, is He to whom thou sayest, “With Thee is the fountain of life.”14 “Happy is the people: whose God is the Lord.” O Lord my God, O Lord our God, make us happy by Thee, that we may come unto Thee. We wish not to be happy from gold, or silver, or land, from these earthly, and most vain, and transitory goods of this perishable life. Let not “our mouth speak; vanity.” Make us happy by Thee, seeing that we shall never lose Thee. When we shall once have gotten Thee, we shall neither lose Thee, nor be lost ourselves. Make us happy by Thee, because “Happy is the people whose is the Lord their God.” Nor will God be angry if we shall say of Him, He is our estate. For we read that “the Lord is the portion of my inheritance.”15 Grand thing, Brethren, we are both His inheritance, and He is ours, seeing that we both cultivate His service16 and He cultivateth us.17 It is no derogation18 to His honour that He cultivateth us. Because if we cultivate Him as our God, He cultivateth us as His field. And, (that ye may know that He doth cultivate us) hear Him whom He hath sent to us: “I,” saith He, “am the vine, ye are the branches, My Father is the Husbandman.”19 Therefore He doth cultivate us. But if we yield fruit, He prepares for us His garner. But if under the attention of so great a hand we will be barren, and for good fruit20 bring forth thorns, I am loth to say what follows.21 Let us make an end with a theme of joy. “Let us turn then to the Lord,” etc.
1 (Mt 25,35 etc.
2 (Mt 25,40
5 (Ps 4,4 Sept.
6 (Ps 51,9
7 (Lc 19,2 etc).
8 (Lc 19,9
9 (Jb 1,21
10 (Mt 6,20 Lc 12,33
11 (Ps 144,11 etc.), Sept).
14 (Ps 36,9
15 (Ps 16,5
17 Colit. Quia et colimus eum, et colit nos. Vide Serm. xlvii., xxix., xxvii., ii.; Conf. B. 13,1.
19 (Jn 15,1
21 See Jn 15,2 Jn 15,6.