Cycle C – Homily – 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time – 18 September 2022
Also called the 15th Sunday after Pentecost
Lectionary I Lectionary II
Amos 8:4-7 Amos 8:4-7 with Psalm 113
Psalm 113:1-2, 4-6, 7-8 Jeremiah 8:18 – 9:1 with Psalm 79:1-9
1 Timothy 2:1-8 1 Timothy 2:1-7
Luke 16:1-13 Luke 16:1-13
Check out today’s readings, which are virtually identical for both major Lectionaries. And if you compare that alternate Jeremiah reading with the Amos reading, you will see that both selections deal with aspects of the same theme. And what’s more is that we will see more of this same theme again next week.
That theme is SOCIAL JUSTICE – a theme very much in today’s news across our globe. We’ll look first at what our readings have to say about SOCIAL JUSTICE and then we can examine how Scripture relates to our world in this 21st century.
Let’s start with Amos. Amos was one of the twelve minor prophets of the Old Testament, living and prophesying in the mid-700s BCE. His writings and his teachings are read and revered by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. (The Orthodox Church even has a feast to honor him!) Keep in mind that prophets – particularly Old Testament prophets – were not fortune tellers or soothsayers. They were messengers who pointed out the faults and foibles of the people of the time and tried to get them to straighten out their ways. Although Amos did foretell the fall of the Northern Kingdom, he did not consider himself to be a prophet. Check Amos 7:14-15; Amos considered himself to be a grower of sycamore figs.
Amos had three major themes: justice, the omnipotence of God, and divine judgment. For me, when I read Amos, justice always seems to stand out. Amos was a staunch proponent of loving one’s neighbor. Of course, this theme permeates the entire Bible. Amos was distraught by the glaring and growing disparity between the very wealthy and the very poor. He was concerned about justice; he was consumed by issues of social justice.
Here is a snippet from today’s reading. It is a reply from the people Amos was admonishing:
“We will diminish the ephah,
add to the shekel,
and 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!"
And that is just a part of today’s message. Those hardened folks of old were clearly not in a justice-minded or charitable mood while Amos had a very clear message of social justice and love.
I encourage everyone to Google Amos to find out more about this dynamic prophet and then to read the entire Book of Amos. That would be a very positive spiritual exercise for this coming week. As you do meditate on Amos, I encourage you to keep in mind that neither Amos nor anyone else states that money itself is the problem. The disparity between rich and poor is not the inanimate concept of money, it is the LOVE of money that is the problem. The famous quote in that regard is found at 1 Timothy 6:10. Throughout history many very wealthy people have worked very hard to achieve economic equity. They used their wealth for good and not for ill. Unfortunately, many others have worked only to increase the disparity between themselves and everyone else. That can readily be seen by transposing the above quote from Amos to our world today. Who loves their money and who uses their money for good?
[I also encourage everyone to examine privately how today’s Second Reading and today’s Gospel both contribute supporting evidence for the claims of Amos.]
If we fast-forward to today, we find ourselves in a quagmire of confusion. Now that is an extremely ironically convoluted mixed metaphor! But, maybe that is what we need. Social justice in today’s world is met with very strong and very mixed ideologies. The message of Jesus is very clearly stated in The Sermon on the Mount, The Sermon on the Plain, The Beatitudes, Matthew 25, the entire Gospel of John (with a special emphasis on John 13), and countless other places, to name a few.
The message of Jesus is the message of Social Justice. That is it in a nutshell. Love God and love your neighbor. And you can’t love your neighbor if you do not follow the practical applications of Social Justice. And what about all those parables?? Those are just applications of Social Justice, Love, and Common Sense, aren’t they? Think about it and check it out for yourself.
But, what are we dealing with in today’s world? To answer that We need to define two maligned and misunderstood terms – prosperity gospel and woke culture. You’ve probably heard both these terms and you may be wondering what they could possibly have to do with today’s readings. Let’s look at each of these thoughts in light of the message from Amos. By the way, you are welcome to disagree with my interpretations but I do ask you to at least consider them in relation to the scriptural message of Jesus.
The prosperity gospel (sometimes referred to as prosperity theology) is the outgrowth of a cult thinking prevalent in the 1970s that stated that living a good Christian life would result in prosperity and wealth. Today this thinking is prevalent among charismatic and evangelical Christians of various ilks and is often hyped by various televangelists. Prosperity and wealth tend to become an endpoint.
It would be wrong of us to demonize the spirituality or the intent of those who promote such a view. However, it seems it would really be prudent to compare this thinking with what the gospel actually says. Here we get into a sticky wicket because we know (as mentioned above and from numerous scriptural references) that wealth and prosperity are not intrinsically evil. The problem is not having those fortunes but rather the problem stems from what we do with those fortunes. In considering the prosperity gospel, we need to ask ourselves if wealth is what we are striving for. If having wealth and prosperity is our goal, we need to go back and look at what Amos says and then we need to look at what Jesus says in the passages mentioned above. If wealth and prosperity come, that is good and we can use that wealth and prosperity to do good, but wealth and prosperity absolutely cannot be our goal in being Christians. Our goal is to love God, love our neighbor, and be of maximum service. Everything else is ancillary.
And that brings us to our second concern of the day – WOKE. I have personally heard or read about quite a few people saying they are anti-woke. Do they even know what woke is? I doubt it. Let’s look back at this term and see how it fits in with today’s Social Justice message.
WOKE started out primarily as an African-American term used to refer to racial prejudice and social discrimination. The term evolved to include all types of societal injustice. Although the term is still in a state of flux, the general definition today is that WOKE is an awareness of all types of social injustice. Awareness generally leads to action. That sounds amazingly like the call of Christianity, doesn’t it?
So, I must ask. Why are so many so-called Christians proponents of the prosperity gospel and condemners of the woke mentality? I seriously do not understand that. Do you?
It seems to me that we each need to ask ourselves where we stand on issues of social justice.
Dr Roberta M Meehan