Sunday Sermon for September 22, 2013, the Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Readings: Am 8:4-7; 1Tim 2:1-8; Lk 16:1-13
In the readings today we are challenged with a couple of points on which, in general, we seem to be failing miserably. The first one comes in the first reading where the people are wondering when the Sabbath will be over so that they can get back to buying and selling. The only reason they were not open on the Sabbath is because it was against the law. They really did not care about the Sabbath; their focus was on their money.
The question about when the Sabbath would be over is also interesting because the Sabbath begins with sundown on what we would call Friday evening and ends at sundown on Saturday evening. The fact that they wanted to know the moment the Sabbath is over suggests that they would be going out to engage in buying and selling after sunset. While that happens regularly today, we have to remember that there was no electric lighting back then; when it was dark, it was dark.
Regardless of all of this, in our day we have completely disregarded the Lord’s Day. Very few retail businesses remain closed on Sundays. It is the norm to see packed parking lots at shopping malls on Sundays. Very few people see Sunday as a day of prayer and recreation anymore. It has become just another day. As fewer and fewer people attend Mass, more and more engage in secular affairs. Even those who come to Mass often plan things for later in the day that violate the Lord’s Day.
For business owners, perhaps little has changed since the time of Amos as they continue to focus so much on money. For consumers, it has become a matter of convenience. It used to be that we had to think ahead and make sure that anything you might need on Sunday was purchased by Saturday evening and the gas tank was full if you needed the car to get to church or visit with family. All of that has changed and the norm is a general disregard for the Third Commandment of the Decalogue. The frightening thing about it is that God says at the end of the reading: “Never will I forget a thing they have done.”
The second thing that we so often fail to do is contained in the second reading where St. Paul exhorts us to pray all people, but especially for those in political offices. St. Paul gives two reasons for this. First, so that we can live a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. Second, that everyone would come to a knowledge of truth. In other words, he realized, as anyone would, that if our lives are going to be tranquil, we need to be praying for the people who have the responsibility to make the laws that would ensure a time of peace. Even beyond quietly living our faith in our daily lives, we need to be praying as we hear the drums of war sounding louder and more frequently.
The other aspect St. Paul speaks of is the desire that everyone would come to a knowledge of the truth. While the martyrs have served as an inspiration for many over the years, the majority of people are going to be touched by those who are living their faith in the ordinary circumstances of life. This brings us right back to the first point where we have to ask if we are living our faith fully. If we are violating the Lord’s Day, making money or priority, of failing in our prayer life, we are not going to be much of an example to those around us.
We live today in a situation where becoming a Saint is very easy. When we read the lives of the Saints we are astounded by the heroic witness of these men and women. Today it has become “heroic” just to live out our faith in normal daily life. In the Gospel our Lord reminds us that if we will not be faithful in the large things if we prove to be unfaithful in the small things. Every day we have the opportunity to demonstrate fidelity in small things.
Perhaps it is time that we consider our priorities. Are we praying daily? Do we pray for those who hold political office? Do we pray for those who have authority over us, politically or otherwise? Do we live out our faith at work or when we are with friends? Are we examples of virtue to those around us? It is easy to complain about people and circumstances; it is easy to fit in and just be “like everyone else.” God is looking for fidelity to Him and to show ourselves trustworthy with message of the Gospel. Our choices will always be seen in our actions.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.