Reflection for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.
There is a story about a rich and influential man who took his only son to a farm where the majority of the poor people in the region live. His intention was for his son to appreciate how lucky he was to be born into a rich home.
While returning to their exotic mansion in their chauffeur driven car, the dad asked his son, with an air of expectancy, “what’s your experience being with those people?” “It was amazing!” The boy replied with every trace of enthusiasm. “Tell me more” The dad insisted. “Well, dad”. The boy started, “ I observed that they are happy staying together in their small houses, but we have a big houses and many rooms but we are still not as happy as they are”.
“Is that all”. The dad asked with a bit of confusion and defeat in his voice. “No dad” the boy responded and continued. “We have a restricted smaller swimming pool compared to their big and beautiful river which is open to anyone. We buy processed food, but they grow theirs fresh and natural. We spend time with television and internet, but they spend most of the time together with family. We have walls to protect and separate us from others but they have no walls but neighbors around them.
Finally, the boy concluded by saying: “Thanks dad, for showing me how the rich live and I think we need to come out of poverty”. His dad was shocked. For once he thought, “good life is not all about having money and comfort”.
Is Poverty from God?
Some people think that poverty is a disease, still some others see it as a curse. In fact some christian fanatics have well articulated prayers against the spirit of poverty. However, we need to know what the scriptures says. The canticle of Hannah, says among other things, “God makes some rich and makes some poor, he brings some down and lifts others up”. (1 Samuel 2:7).
Recall that when Judas Iscariot complained that the oil the woman poured on the feet of Jesus could have been sold and the money given to the poor, Jesus replied saying, “you will always have the poor among you”. (Matthew 26:11).
We may not know why or how, but there is something about the poor that appeals to the heart of God. In fact, the defense for the poor in the prophecy of Amos in the First Reading (Amos 8:4-7), reveals to us that there is a place for them in the divine economy. In the narrative, we hear God denouncing the rich merchants who prey on the poor and needy and how God resolved to deal with them.
The Rich After God’s Heart
We can conclude on this that being poor is not inconsistent with the divine plan. If God makes rich or poor there is a purpose beyond the unjustifiable lines drawn by the rich and influential in the human society.
The prophecy of Amos reveals the unchanging grand plan of the rich, namely, they become richer by making the poor become poorer. Put in another way, the poorer the poor, the richer the rich.
The situation captured during the time of the prophet Amos has not changed so much in our day and age. The poor still face impoverishment in the hands of the rich who use various manipulative arsenals to advance their trade. The rising cost of living has a greater impact on the poor. Mahatma Gandhi calls it “commerce without morality” in the list of his “Seven Deadly Sins of the Modern Society”.
The Book of a Proverbs gives us the following classical caution that is valid today as it was during the biblical times: “Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” (Proverbs 14:31).
Moving Forward: The Lesson from the Unfaithful Steward
In the Gospel Reading ( Luke 16:1-13) our Lord Jesus Christ tells the story of the unfaithful steward who, discovering that he was about to lose his place in his master’s employment due to his wastefulness, decided to use his office to gain favors from his master’s debtors by cutting down their debts.
What could be good enough to learn from the unfaithful servant? Simple; saving for the rainy days. Notice that the master praised the unfaithful steward not for the falsification of the accounts but for thinking about the future and building a relationship structure for it.
In the school of the unfaithful steward we learn that the seed you sow today will bear the fruits for tomorrow. From the unfaithful steward we learn that long term benefit is better than the immediate gratification.
More significantly, the unfaithful steward teaches us that building relationships is more profitable than building structures and that we become richer when we reach out to others. Finally, what we have should serve us not the other way round. Our service is only to God and in the name of the Lord.
God bless you.