Three young men came to a bar early one morning to drink. As the alcohol began to take effect, the sound of a funeral procession informed them that a dead person was being carried to the cemetry. They further learnt that it was actually one of their drunken friends. He had been killed by a thief called DEATH, who had also KILLED many others within a short time.
The bar keeper went on to add that Death had virtually wiped out a neighbouring village. He further said that Death might be living very close to them. The inebriated young men were angry and vowed that they would find Death and kill him, and they boldly headed for the neighbouring village.
On their way, they met an old man who had been living for a long time. He desired to die, but Death would not take him. One of the young men asked the old man tell him where they could find the traitor Death. The old man pointed to an oak tree in a nearby grove. He assured them that they would find Death there and left.
The three friends quickly ran to the spot the old man designated. To their delight, they discovered a hoard of money in the spot where Death was supposed to be. When they saw this treasure, their minds were distracted, and they no longer thought about killing Death.
Instantly, they decided not to carry away the hoard of money but until it became dark. In the meantime, two of them would guard the treasure while the third would run to town to get some bread and wine. They drew lots to see who would go to the town. The lot fell on the youngest of the three. As soon as their companion left, the two who remained made plans to kill him on his return. They (the two) reasoned that it would be better to divide the treasure two ways instead of three.
Meanwhile, the young man who went to town decided to kill his two companions and keep the entire money for himself. To fulfil this mission, he bought rat poison and poisoned two of the bottles and left one which he would take. When he returned, his two companions killed him and settled down to eat the bread and drink the wine. They also died afterwards leaving all that money. The old man who is actually DEATH came back saw them, laughed and moved on Unknown to them, death can be found easily in money.
Geoffrey Chaucer the Medieval poet ended this story which he called “The Pardoner’s tale” (One of the Canterbury tales) with the Latin phrase Radix malorum est cupiditas which means the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:10).
Money is basically good; no doubt! Even the bible is supportive of this view when the preacher among other things said: “Bread is made for laughter, and wine gladdens life, and money answers everything” (Ecclesiastes 10:19 RSV). What is actually improper and offensive to God is when money is sought to the detriment of others and with inattention to God.
In the first reading of today (Amos 8:4-7), the oracle of the prophet Amos was directed to those who use the vulnerability of the poor to enrich themselves. Most pitiably, “they buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals”; this is the height of dehumanization and devaluation. Unfortunately in our day and age this situation of marginalisation has been on geometric increase as the rich continues to widen the gap between them and the poor through various exploitative means. Mahatma Gandhi was not wrong after all when among his epoch-making seven deadly sins of the modern world he mentioned “wealth without work and commerce without morality”.
The gospel reading today (Luke 16:1-13) began with the parable of the dishonest steward. He was praised by his master for his astuteness in using the master’s wealth to secure a temporary glorious future for himself. Beyond his dishonesty, he was praised on account of his ability to master the wealth of his master and not being mastered or enslaved by it. One striking thing we can understand about the steward was that all through the narrative he was in charge; always ahead of the game.
It is often said that money can be a good servant but a very bad master. In the instruction that followed our Lord Jesus Christ advised that we use money tainted (unrighteous mammon) as it is to make friends for ourselves so that when it fails (as it always does) we can retain the friendship. Now the most enduring friendship we can ever think of is the friendship with God. Let it be said immediately that using money or other material wealth to win friendship with God does not consist just in fat donations and offerings to the Church. It is basically about being God’s hands to reach the poor; being proficient in charity and receiving its reward (1 Peter 4:8).
It is not a fairy tale that most of us today adore and worship money instead of God. This plays itself out very well in the choices we make when we find ourselves between God and other material concerns (especially money related). Between the obligatory Sunday Mass and a promising business meeting, between helpful assistance to a growing mission and unnecessary accumulation of more properties, between self-aggrandisement and sacrifice; Ghandi was right still when he mentioned “religion without sacrifice” as one of the seven deadly sins of the modern world.
If we take a very attentive look at the gospel, we will discover that the steward represents all of us much as the rich man represents God who knows all our tricks and plans. As stewards we have been given various tasks to perform by God and the question is how faithful have we been in them carrying out.
The treasures (money and other things) we have are not really ours. They are entrusted to us by God who is the real owner and if we are wise enough we must use them in such a way that we can win God’s admiration and commendation. And the highest point of this will be entrance to eternal bliss where money and other material acquisitions will be useless. Like the three friends many people still accumulate wealth in various ways and means (good or bad) and still would not be alive to enjoy it as well as not qualifying for eternal life (Mark 8:36).
May you have a wonderful Sunday and remember to help and not to hinder the poor!