By: Fr Andrew Ekpenyong at St Mary Magdalene Catholic Church, Omaha, USA.



1. Marines. “The Marines are looking for a few good men” is still a recruitment slogan of the US Marines. Today’s Scripture readings focus on the good use of wealth and also the abuse of wealth, with our Lord stating pointedly: “You cannot serve both God and mammon” Lk 16:13. Here, mammon is money. Let’s make fun of ourselves with this old joke about a money-conscious Catholic priest. It seems the priest in this joke was trying to serve both God and money. A farmer lived alone in the countryside except for a pet dog he loved dearly. One day the dog died and the farmer went to the parish priest, inquiring if a Mass could be celebrated for the dead pet. The priest told the farmer: “No, we can’t have services for an animal in the church, but I’ll tell you what, there’s a new denomination down the road, and no telling what they believe in, maybe they’ll do something for the animal.” The farmer said: “Thanks Father, I’ll go right away. By the way, do you think $5,000.00 is enough to donate for such a service?” to which the priest quickly replied: “Why didn’t you tell me the dog was Catholic?”

2. Reparation. Brothers and sisters, when it comes to money, many good people usually think of charity as the virtue needed for the good use of money. And the vice that often comes to mind regarding money is greed. However, today’s Scripture readings focus on justice and injustice surrounding our pursuit of and use of wealth. In the 1st reading (Am 8:4-7), the Prophet Amos reminds the People of God that those who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land have to consider not just repentance but reparation. Yes, that is what it means for God to remember the injustice done: “Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land!… The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Never will I forget a thing they have done!”. God expects that we make reparation for injustices committed. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), using Scripture, makes our duty of restitution clearer. CCC 2412 states: “In virtue of commutative justice, reparation for injustice committed requires the restitution of stolen goods to their owner: Jesus blesses Zacchaeus for his pledge: ‘If I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.’ (Lk 19:8). Those who, directly or indirectly, have taken possession of the goods of another, are obliged to make restitution of them, or to return the equivalent in kind or in money, if the goods have disappeared, as well as the profit or advantages their owner would have legitimately obtained from them. Likewise, all who in some manner have taken part in a theft or who have knowingly benefited from it – for example, those who ordered it, assisted in it, or received the stolen goods – are obliged to make restitution in proportion to their responsibility and to their share of what was stolen.” Wow. It seems that although many good people do charity with money, only a few good people take seriously the need to do reparations for being direct or indirect beneficiaries of past criminal acts committed by our ancestors, our past governments, our defunct empires and so on. Only a few good people are willing to make reparations.

3. Trustworthiness. Still focusing on justice, our Lord teaches in today’s Gospel reading (Lk 16:10-13) that training ourselves to be trustworthy in very small matters will enable us to be trustworthy in great ones. Fortunately, our society also values trustworthiness in simple matters like giving quality time, fair amount of time to our paid work, etc. We should then watch out for those matters of justice and money where there are only a few good people doing the right thing or willing to do the right thing, such as making reparations where we are indirect beneficiaries of past crimes and past injustice. We need to be among those few good people.


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