Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Busted Pipe, Amos, and Prudent Use of Material Goods

Today's readings at Mass were Amos 8:4-7, Timothy 2:1-8, and Luke 16:1-13.

Father Statz's homily was, among other things, on the idea of balance: and the imbalance of notions like thinking we deserve everything because we're a 'King's kid,' and stealing from rich people because we don't have as much as they do. I've mentioned liberation theology and the prosperity gospel before.

Amos, Social Justice, and Getting a Grip

Amos seems to have had a burr under his saddle about what we'd call 'social justice issues' today. And some folks think the Catholic Church, with its insistence on reading the Bible is conservative?! I've written about that before, too. (November 3, 2008)

Praise For - A Dishonest Steward?!

The first thirteen verses of Luke 2 are the parable of the dishonest steward. #1 daughter and I went to Mass yesterday afternoon, so that there'd be someone here this morning. A pipe broke in my house on Friday, which affected routines a bit. I've written a little about that in my personal blog.

Anyway, we'd heard the parable of the dishonest steward - complete with that "dishonest wealth" phrase in verse 9. I've written about wealth before, too. Bottom line: it's okay to be wealthy; it's okay to be poor; it's idolizing wealthy that's a problem.

I didn't know exactly what "dishonest wealth" meant in this context, so when #1 daughter said that she didn't understand why a dishonest steward was being praised - and what was wrong with wealth - I took a look to see if there were footnotes for that chapter. There are. The first in the online NAB Bible got placed before the first word of the first verse:
"[1-8a] The parable of the dishonest steward has to be understood in the light of the Palestinian custom of agents acting on behalf of their masters and the usurious practices common to such agents. The dishonesty of the steward consisted in the squandering of his master's property (Luke 16:1) and not in any subsequent graft. The master commends the dishonest steward who has forgone his own usurious commission on the business transaction by having the debtors write new notes that reflected only the real amount owed the master (i.e., minus the steward's profit). The dishonest steward acts in this way in order to ingratiate himself with the debtors because he knows he is being dismissed from his position (Luke 16:3). The parable, then, teaches the prudent use of one's material goods in light of an imminent crisis."
(footnote 1 of Luke 16)
Human nature may not have changed in the last 2,000 years: but we've seen a few cultural shifts. For starters, Palestine didn't have dishonest car salesmen, and we don't have 'stewards' quite the same way folks did back then. I think out-of-control CEOs might be a vague equivalent.

There's more in the footnotes, including a definition of the outdated measures cited. Basically, the steward wasn't dealing with chicken feed when he cooked the books.

"Dishonest Wealth," "Mammon of Iniquity," and "That in Which One Trusts"

I finally found something about "dishonest wealth" in the sixth footnote:
"[9] Dishonest wealth: literally, 'mammon of iniquity.' Mammon is the Greek transliteration of a Hebrew or Aramaic word that is usually explained as meaning 'that in which one trusts.' The characterization of this wealth as dishonest expresses a tendency of wealth to lead one to dishonesty. Eternal dwellings: or, 'eternal tents,' i.e., heaven."
(footnote 6 of Luke 16)

Long-Term Planning and This Catholic

Even with water having gotten into the structure of my house and some of my treasured belongings: I'm doing okay. I'll probably even be able to keep some of those records that my father had. He had pretty good taste in music - and that's another topic.

The point is, I'm doing okay. My household will have to get parts of our floors torn up and replaced - and almost certainly tear out parts of the walls. But we can handle that. And there's no reason to think that we can't keep this house. Good thing, too, since it keeps us relatively comfortable during a normal Minnesota year (temperatures ranging from about -2°F to 80°F) - even the -40°F to 104°F we've been known to experience. And there's no reason to think that we'll not be able to keep it.

Like I said: I'm doing okay, when it comes to material goods. Which is why this household was able to pitch in a little when the diocese passed the hat for Haiti. Quite a few folks pitched in "a little," it seems: this central Minnesota diocese was able to send about a quarter-million dollars to Haiti. (February 22, 2010) Even these days, that's a noticeable amount of cash.

I'm not all that wealthy - by America standards - but I've been careful about tithing. No bragging there: I'm just following orders: and that 'tenth part' rule is one that's pretty straightforward. (August 28, 2010)

So, I'm some kind of altruist? Hardly. I've wondered if altruism is possible for someone who understands Catholic teaching. I can't possibly work my way into heaven. On the other hand, my faith is pretty much useless unless I do something about it:
"...most of Article 12 [of the Catechism of the Catholic Church] is rather sobering. I'm very glad that my Lord made it possible (1026) for me to enter 'the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings' - I rely on my Lord's death and resurrection for entry into God's kingdom: and I'm expected to do something about what I say that I believe. (1021, 1032, 1039, for starters)

"I can't say that I'm looking forward to giving an accounting of what I've done with the life I was given. Still, like it or not: that's the way it works...."
(August 8, 2010)
If I kicking in a little to help out folks now and again - without expecting to get a dollar-for-dollar return on my 'investment' - I'm being 'altruistic' in one sense. I'm passing along some of the worldly goods I received, without expecting a short-term benefit.

Big whoop. I'm aware that there may be consequences further down the road if I don't do something to help my neighbors: and that there may be rewards if I do. Further down the road.

Altruist? Ha! I'm just making some long-term investments: of a "spiritual" sort. Which bothers me a little - since I'm supposed to give 'without thought of reward.' Oh, well: I have to do what I can, and trust God to sort it all out.

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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.