God's Word on Sunday: Wheels of divine justice miss nothing

  • September 15, 2019

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sept. 22 (Year C) Amos 8:4-7; Psalm 113; 1 Timothy 2:1-7; Luke 16:1-13

Corruption and dishonesty in the business and social realms are nothing new. 

In the mid-eighth century BC, the prophet Amos denounced the injustice of the northern kingdom of Israel. He hoped to rouse their collective conscience before it was too late. He warned repeatedly of the danger from the Assyrians, who were set to devour tiny Israel. But there was more to the story. 

The nation was bringing this disaster on itself by its corruption, oppression of the poor and contempt for elementary compassion and decency. The list of offences that Amos ticks off sounds like it could be taken from the modern media. Cutting corners, looking for legal loopholes to evade justice, adulterating their products and doctoring standards and measurements were all part of what they considered business as usual. 

If that were not enough, the poor were crushed and ground underfoot. Many of the guilty considered themselves religiously observant, but Amos (elsewhere in the book) had no use for religiosity that is not joined with fundamental justice. 

There are chilling words at the end of the prophecy. God swears that He will never forget their deeds. The words are spoken to all peoples in every age. 

God cannot be tricked or manipulated, and we will be judged by how we treat other people. When profits and wealth are deemed more important than people, the situation described in Amos repeats itself. 

Since Israel ignored repeated warnings, God permitted the Assyrians to overpower and conquer the land. In a sense, the people dismantled their own defences by incredible injustice and contempt for human dignity and decency. 

We help to create our own world and experiences by our individual and collective response to divine law and fundamental human rights. We can see this at work in our own time. 

The wheels of divine justice can appear to grind slowly, but they miss nothing. God is not impressed by piety and devotion that are devoid of justice and active compassion.

The letter to Timothy is rather strange — it was probably written by one of Paul’s followers, and it lacks a lot of his passion and fire. The author prays for a peaceful and quiet life. Given the condition of our world, one could say that this is a rather self-absorbed wish. 

But there is a broader vision behind the request — God desires everyone to be saved and to know the truth. There is one humanity and one God, and the peace and tranquility for which he prays is merely so that the wonderful news can be conveyed to all. Peace and tranquility are given for a reason, and this mission still lies before us today.

Speaking of corrupt business practices, the manager in the Gospel passage seems to fit the role perfectly. His boss finally discovered his financial shenanigans and was ready to walk him off the premises. 

Panic and fear seemed to give him inspiration and he hit upon a way out of his predicament. Basically, he “cooked the books.” He altered the accounts of his master’s creditors so that they owed far less. 

Grateful for the break they had received, they would be favourably disposed to the manager when he was out on the streets. When his boss found out what he had done, he was full of praise and admiration! We would regard his actions as just more theft and dishonesty. 

The parable explains that the children of this age are shrewder in dealing with the world than the children of light. They are not passive; they make things happen. 

This is not a call to dishonesty and crooked behaviour, but to using money wisely today. How we use our wealth and time now determines how we will be received in the future. We can create our tomorrow by our generosity and kindness today. 

The parable ends with food for thought. They say the true measure of someone is what they will do if no one is looking or they are sure that no one will ever know. If we can be trusted in small things — how we treat others and share what we have — then we will be ready for far greater things that God will entrust to us. 

No word, thought or action is insignificant or unnoticed in God’s eyes or in the life of the world.

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