This Reflection was taken from the Sunday Mass Readings of Sept. 22, 2013 (look–I’m finally on the current day!)
I don’t know about you, but I found today’s Gospel highly confusing. So, after doing some research, I think I’ll focus on the second half of it–the application of the lesson.
By “dishonest wealth” Jesus is referring to worldly wealth–and the corrupting effect it can have on people. He tells us to make friends with this dishonest wealth, perhaps for two reasons.
First, so that we may be generous with what he has given us. He once said, and I don’t know if I’m getting these lines exactly right, “Freely you have received; therefore, give freely.” He wants us to be like him, ready to give to others as he has given to us. He has given us everything we own–or rather, everything he has let us have stewardship over. Our pets, our homes, our belongings–even ourselves. We own nothing, aside from our actions. He wants us to try to profit others with those things, not ourselves. He wants us to be generous and selfless like he is with the things he gives us. He is saying that he will reward us for such wise stewardship–meaning wise morally, not wise for our own selfish gain.
The other reason–if I’m seeing this the right way–might be to “Make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth” for the sake of being able to tell what kind of person we’re dealing with. We first try to see if they can be trusted with material things, and then–if they’re reliable–we begin to trust them with spiritual things. Or…maybe he didn’t mean it that way at all.
He also says that those who are trustworthy with small matters are also trustworthy with great ones; likewise, those who are untrustworthy with small things are also untrustworthy with great ones. That can go two ways. It’s not only a way to tell how others are, but also a way to tell how we are.
This sort of pertains to the second point I was trying to make regarding Jesus’ previous lines, and it’s kind of obvious. We almost never trust anyone with important things until we’ve seen how they are with smaller things–and sometimes not even then. Again, if we see that they aren’t dependable with small things, we’re never going to waste our time trusting them with bigger things. On the other hand, if they do well with smaller things, than we begin to place more faith in them, and gradually–if we give them the chance–we may find them to be honest with larger issues. Or we suddenly find our bank accounts empty.
Every once in a while, we need to turn this method around and try it on ourselves. Are we trustworthy with small matters? If so, what kind? Would we be trustworthy with larger ones? Can we even trust ourselves to make an honest assessment of these questions? One good way to answer them is to ask another one: do others trust us? Why or why not? What have we done to get a trustworthy–or the opposite–reputation with these people?
Last comes the passage, “No servant can serve two masters. He will either love one and hate the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. No one can serve both God and mammon.” “Mammon” means (taken straight from the computer’s dictionary) “wealth as evil influence: wealth and riches considered as an evil and corrupt influence.” Rest assured there are many more evil influences these days than just money–as there always have been.
Obviously, money’s a big one. Money leads to possessions, power, and a feeling of complete self-dependence and self-control. It can make us think that we don’t need anything or anybody to get where we want to be. I’m the boss, I’m in charge, I’m going to make me happy, I’m going to do what I want, when I want, how I want. I’m this, I’m that, I’m the other thing–the next thing they know, these people will be thinking that they’re God; and since they’re God, they make the rules, and don’t need to take orders from anybody else. Therefore, they can sin, they can be greedy, they can be selfish–and since they have no one to answer to in this life, they start to convince themselves that they’ll have no one to answer to in the next.
One man who seems to understand this possible corruption very well is Pope Francis. That’s why, back when he was a Cardinal, he lived in an apartment, cooked his own food, and rode the bus to work, when he could have had a palace, a limo, and an army of personal chefs. Instead, he wanted his focus to be on God and his religion. That attitude seems to have served him well–not because he’s the Pope and gets to ride around in the Popemobile, but because he’s become zealous in his Christian faith almost like St. Paul; a true reward. This is exactly how we should all strive to be.
As I said, there are many things to watch out for–things you might not even think of, and probably things I’ve never thought of. Self-glory, fame, smugness, convenience, selfishness, belongings, power; all of these are things that can lead us away from God and into sin. And yes, some of them are indeed brought about by money.
One of the worst things–in my opinion–listed above is convenience. The world revolves around it. Think about it–what is the ratio of the number of material things made for convenience to the number of material things made to give glory to God? We have iPhones, cruise control, automatic fish feeders, TV remotes, clap-operated lighting, high-speed internet–things we don’t even consider. None of these are necessarily bad (I sure hope not, since I don’t see anything wrong in using them). However, it’s also more convenient to tell lies in a tight spot; to not go to Mass on a Sunday morning; to get angry, or to be spiteful. All of these things are so much more convenient–sometimes in the form of being easier, or more enjoyable–than abiding by the Will of God.
The point is, if we get too used to convenience in some areas, than we may tend to expect it in others. Convenience was probably one of the founding fathers of atheism–people being able to do what they want without having to be accountable for it. The easiest way to do that? Pretend there isn’t a God. Of course, that started so long ago, that many present-day atheists don’t even know anything different, which is why we need to pray for them and try our best to help them to the Truth.
At any rate–since I’m getting off track–the main message of this Sunday’s Gospel is to keep God in the forefront of our minds. We should not allow our love of possessions–which he has given us–or our love of ourselves–who he has created–to take priority over what really counts: knowing, loving, and serving God as well as we possibly can.