The parables are always about the practical implications of faith.
The theme of justice seems pretty obvious in today’s Liturgy of the Word. Justice is the rendering of what is due to, or merited by someone. It includes ideas like fairness, equity and impartiality. It doesn’t allow for favoritism, which always divides and hurts some people.
I chose the shorter version of the gospel because the longer version is a very complicated one that I believe requires more time than we have here to really do justice to or develop for proper understanding.
“No servant can serve two masters.” This is very practical advice from Jesus. What are some practical examples from our lives?
We cannot have two “significant others.” If you have two girlfriends or boyfriends, a necessary sorting out will eventually have to occur or, one will be hurt by the lack of attention.
We cannot party and do justice to our studies, one will win out. We will really have a great time and fail, or we will do well in our studies and our social life will have to be somewhat sacrificed.
We cannot have a full time job and be a full time student. One will take over and the other will suffer.
We cannot give total attention to the material things of this life and expect to have a spiritual life as well.
This list could go on and on, and I’m sure you could provide examples from your own personal experiences. It is all about balance, about fairness, about equality.
Theologically, justice is the sorting out what belongs to whom and giving it back to them.
Prophets, like Amos, from which our first reading came, never preached a watered-down justice. For them, justice was passionate, hot-headed, but most of all necessary.
The prophets preached what “grieved” God and themselves in their society and that preaching wasn’t popular. It made people feel uncomfortable. Just think about that question for a moment. “What grieves God?” What would make God cry? What grieves you? What makes you cry? Would we not agree that injustice, dishonesty, unfairness causes us grief?
Rabbi Abraham Heschel says: “The things that horrify the prophets are even now daily occurrences all over the world.” The other evening, I substituted a class for a professor and showed the movie “Romero.” The movie was about Archbishop Oscar Romero’s sensitivity to the suffering caused by injustice in his country. What that movie proved is that the injustices of Amos’ day are all around us still.
Thomas Merton said that we could be overwhelmed when we realize the state of affairs in our world and see so many injustices, but what we should do is look at our lives and make them more just, fair, honest and balanced. We might also raise questions as to why this injustice continues in our day.
The social implication of the gospel is obvious. We cannot sit around and watch injustice, but must move to action if God’s kingdom is going to be evident. This kingdom is not some geographical location far away. The kingdom of God is within each of us. It is the cry we hear in our consciences pleading to us to respond to the needs of those less fortunate than ourselves, and which moves us to help.
Justice in the Bible always referred to the restoration of a situation or environment that promoted equity and harmony in a community.
The prophetic challenge we are invited to enter today is to seek justice, to find out what belongs to whom and try and give it back.
We need to ask, “What belongs to God” and seek to develop a real relationship with God.
We need to ask, “What belongs to those around us” especially those who are deprived of the necessities of a dignified life and see what we can do to help them.
We need to ask, “What belongs to me.” Am I giving time for study, work, recreation and prayer? Am I spiritually, emotionally, physically poor because I am not attending to the real needs of my life.
Our core value of respect covers it all. If we have respect for self, others and God there will be order and peace in our lives.
Sister Mary Rose, the former director of the Covenant House, said: “The bedrock principle of Catholic social teaching is that every person, regardless of race, sex, age, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, employment or any other differentiating characteristic, has a right to life and is worthy of respect. No teaching is more threatened in contemporary society.”
Let us ask ourselves: are we trying to serve more than one master? How’s that working for us? If we are not at peace, it may mean that we have some sorting out to do. Pope Paul VI said: “If you want peace, work for justice!”