Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Reading: Amos 8:4-7
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 113:1-2, 4-8
Second Reading: St. Paul’s 1st Letter to Timothy 2:1-8
Gospel: According to St. Luke 16:1-13
“It’s the economy, stupid.” That simple phrase became one of the great defining statements in recent American political history, along with Ronald Reagan’s “Where’s the beef?” and Lloyd Benson’s “Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”
The economy quote came from an internal memo sent by 1992 Bill Clinton campaign manager James Carville. Carville wanted to make sure that everyone in the campaign stayed on message and took advantage of the economic recession of the latter days of Bush the First.
Whether a country is in a recession or not, the economy is always a key factor in an election. Sadly, most people take a simplistic view of economic matters, and I attribute this to the fact that the original idea of what an economy is, as inherited by the Greeks, gets lost in the morass of political rhetoric. The Greek word for economy is οἰκονομος (oikonomos), a portmanteau combining the words for ‘household’ and ‘management.’ Back in simpler times there were “home ec” classes that at their core were manifestations of the original Greek ideal.
This weekend’s reading from Amos draws attention to the ancient Jewish understanding of this universal concept of household management. For Amos, and for all of the prophets, the Chosen People were a corporate entity and as such those most in need had to be cared for in a way that identified them as essential members of that entity. The Old Testament again and again insists that the anawim, or “God’s poor,” must never be forgotten. Special consideration is given to orphans, widows, and strangers – the three categories of the most vulnerable in society.
Amos warns those who say:
“We will…fix our scales for cheating! We will buy the lowly for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals; even the refuse of the wheat we will sell!”
Sadly, neither original nor actual sin has been eradicated from our household, and economic injustice will exist as long as there are vulnerable people of whom those in power can take advantage. And even more sadly, an emphasis on making everyone rich merely masks the real problem without solving it.
To focus economics on money is to ignore the warning of Christ in this weekend’s gospel:
“No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.”
If economics is about the management of the household, then the household should be managed in a way that would garner the approval of the head of the household. No president or prime minister or dictator or monarch, no matter how absorbed with self-importance, is the Head of the household. Those who remember that fact are the ones who are good stewards, and who, at the time of final reckoning, will not be afraid of the warning handed down by Amos: “The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Never will I forget a thing they have done!”