Exegesis

  

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Select Exegesis
September, 17 2013

25th Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)

Sr. Betty Jane Lillie, S.C.

Am 8:4-7 X Tim 1:1-8 Lk 16-1-13

 

 

            Our readings for this week begin with the prophecies of Amos who was chronologically the first of the classical biblical prophets.  Amos was from Tekoa (Am 1:1) in the Southern Kingdom of Judah and was called by the Lord to preach against the abuses of covenant morality in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. 


            At a time in history when Israel’s military and economic prosperity were at their peak, Amos was given the difficult task of confronting the grave social injustices of the Northern Kingdom.  Their blatant immorality, and their simultaneous mixing of contempt for religious observance with exploitation of the poor was a means to enhance their own wealth. 


            The covenant that the Lord made with Israel was unique among covenants of that time and place.  It was a personal covenant, initiated by God with his chosen people, and it applied to the people’s relationship with God as well as with one another.  This nation was to have a high degree of morality, and a sense of compassion, love, and justice.  The behavior of the Northern Kingdom was directly contrary to that idea, and that became a living reality in their blatant abuse of the less fortunate members of society.  The oracles of Amos provide abundant descriptions of the internal moral rot of the North. 


            If outward show of religious practice is no more than a cover for internal lack of upright character, then religion becomes a travesty.  And so it was in the Northern Kingdom, as presented in the Prophet’s classic indictments of Israel such as those in Am 7-8.  As history worked out, the Northern Kingdom did fall to Assyria and did not become again an independent nation. 


            As we proceed through our readings we have in the Letter to Timothy some instructions about praying for all people, including those in high positions, that God’s people might enjoy a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectable in every way. (1Tim 2:1-2)  In the time of the writer the Christians lived under Roman rule, so fear of oppression and persecution were very real threats.  Thus the motivation for those prayers was likely different than our experience in praying for civil authorities today.  Since the rulers were non-Christians, we also see a subtle petition for their conversion: God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Tim 2:4)


            The intricacies of the Gospel reading make the passage difficult to unravel, but the point of it comes in the master’s commendation of the steward.  Then the application follows in the idea that the seemingly dishonest steward was prudent in using worldly things to ensure the future. (Lk 16:8-9)  Some modern interpreters suggest that the steward was foregoing his own commission to encourage the payment of the debts.  In that case, the steward’s prudence could have been commendable. 


            Having said all this, the Psalmist brings us around to doing what servants of the Lord surely need to do.  “Praise, O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord.”  (Ps 113)

 Betty Jane Lillie, S.C.

   

 

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