Sunday Sermon for September 22, 2019, the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Readings: Am 8:4-7; 1 Tim 2:1-8; Lk 16:1-13

In the second reading today St. Paul asks us to pray for everyone, especially for kings and those in authority.  Two reasons are given for this: first, so we can live quiet and tranquil lives in dignity and devotion.  Second, because God wills everyone to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.  In both of these reasons the motivation is charity.  One might suggest that wanting to live quiet and tranquil lives is selfish.  However, the point of living in devotion and dignity shows us the quiet life is not one of selfishness, but of charity, in order to pray and grow in holiness.

It is also important to note that St. Paul immediately follows this by stating there is one God and one Mediator between God and Man, the man Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself as a ransom for all.  In other words, the point of praying for others is that they will come to know the one true God and that apart from Jesus, the Mediator and Savior, there is no other way to eternal life.  Our task is to exercise a secondary mediation and obtain the grace for others to accept the truth and save their souls.

This secondary mediation is completely dependent on the mediation of Christ.  In fact, we cannot mediate for anyone unless the Lord mediated for us first.  Our Lord has given us the dignity of participating in the work of redemption through our suffering.  He has also given us the privilege of participating in His role as Mediator through our prayer.  In other words, when we pray, we are practicing true love for God and neighbor.

Contrast this with what we see in the other two readings today.  In the first reading, the service of God is merely perfunctory, that is, people are not working on the Sabbath because it was against the Law.  However, what these people are really interested in is getting back to selling their wares and making money.  Following the Sabbath is not done for love of God; rather, it is tolerated as an inconvenience at best, and an unwanted evil at worst. 

Along with the lack of love for God is a complete lack of charity toward neighbor.  This makes perfect sense since our love for neighbor flows from our love for God.  These people are willing to exploit the poor for selfish gain.  We may think ourselves better than that, and perhaps we are in the sense that we do not exploit people.  However, a serious problem we have in our day is a failure to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors.  Along with this is the unwillingness to forgive others.  Of course, if we are not willing to forgive, we will not be willing to pray for the person because prayer is the greatest work of charity.  Our stubborn refusal to extend charity to someone demonstrates our failure to do what our Lord has done for us and asked of us.

In the Gospel we hear about a man who, to get others to like him or even feel indebted to him, was willing to steal from his employer for purely selfish gain.  Once again, we may not be stealing from our employers, but how often do we do things in order to fit in or to make people like us or think well of us?  What the man in the Gospel did was not only dishonest and selfish, it was aimed at using others for his own selfish gain. 

This is the pattern we see not only in the actions mentioned in the readings, but in every sin we commit.  Every sin is a matter of selfishness.  We either fail in our love for God, for neighbor, or both.  We claim to be followers Christ and we might even claim some sense of righteousness.  But if we fail to live according to the Lord’s teaching, are we not shown to be frauds?  Jesus tells us in the Gospel that if we are dishonest in small matters, we will be dishonest in big matters.  We do not want to fool ourselves into thinking too highly of ourselves, only to stand before the Lord and hear that we will not be entrusted with eternal life because we proved ourselves unreliable when we were entrusted with the relatively small matter of praying for people and practicing charity toward them. 

One of the greatest lessons we can learn is that selfish people will always betray us.  This is what our Lord is trying to teach us: money and selfish people will fail us, but become friends with a true Friend, Jesus, and live in dignity and devotion now in order to receive what is yours in Heaven.

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