Just from the context of today’s Gospel, we can surmise that mammon has something to do with money or wealth or earthly possessions. After all, this teaching about mammon follows a parable about steward who squandered his master’s property, certainly recalling from last week, the parable of the prodigal son who squandered his inheritance on his earthly appetites.
This dishonest steward, instead of serving his master’s interests, has squandered his office, and only after getting caught, does he scramble to make some amends. Instead of serving his master, he has served an idol, a false master, himself.
The word mammon comes from the Aramaic word for “trust”. So “mammon” is something, anything that you trust in, other than God. It could mean money, it could mean power, it could mean your own ego.
So, Jesus isn’t calling money, evil, here, per se. Most people use money for very good reasons, like providing for their family. But some people sell out their family, their country, their integrity . . . for money. Money becomes a false idol, money becomes mammon when it is pursued at the expense of one’s soul. But again, not just money can become mammon; I read an article this week in which a Hollywood actress was boasting that it was her multiple abortions which enabled her to grow in fame—she willingly sacrificed the lives of her children for personal fame and wealth. Mammon is a relentless unholy god that demands sacrifice for short-term gain at the expense of others.
Last week, the prodigal son, having squandered his inheritance, was symbolic of sinful humanity, guilty of a squandered relationship with God resulting in the spiritual death of sin. But the good news was that the father in the parable, was symbolic of God, who runs to embrace his repentant son in mercy. Each of us, falling into sin, over and over, is pursued by God who longs to embrace us in his mercy.
Well, the dishonest steward, this week is symbolic as well, but of who? Well, Jesus is certainly addressing the Pharisees, who have squandered their holy office, their sacred duty, for their own sordid gain. They were supposed to be true spiritual leaders in Israel, helping people to be faithful to God and helping people to recognize how God was working in their lives. Jesus equates the Pharisees with the unfaithful, dishonest, steward, for their failure to help people recognize Jesus as Son of God and follow Him.
But this parable is also addressed again, just like last week, to every Christian of every age, to all of us. The parable challenges us to ensure that we do not squander the time we have been given, the treasure with which we’ve been entrusted, and to be vigilant against becoming a slave to mammon, and to serve God in even the smallest of matters.
So, what does it mean to serve God? Our first reading defines this service as care for the poor, honesty in our business transactions. Speaking through the prophet Amos, the Lord God, has some pretty harsh words for those who would take advantage of the poor and whose priorities are not aligned with God’s. “Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land.. Never will I forget a thing they have done!” Lest we think we are off the hook as long as we are not cheating the poor outright, the Lord condemns just as strongly those who are anxious for the Sabbath to be over in order to pursue the things of the earth.
Rather, we are to live for God all week, by placing Christ at the center of everything we do, and to remember our responsibility to the poor in our midst, the materially poor and spiritually poor, to ensure that we are setting good example for young people, to ensure that our time, talent, and treasure is entirely at the service of God.
Time, talent, and treasure. That’s a phrase this parish is pretty familiar with. Over the last five years, our former pastor Fr. Troha was very vigilant in calling the parish to commit their time, talent, and treasure to the Lord’s service. And though, we know longer will have the month long stewardship renewal, we do well to make an examination of our personal stewardship with questions like: am I reasonably supporting the Church and the work of the Church with my time, talent, and treasure? Am I setting aside time every day for some form of service to God? Am I setting aside a reasonable amount of treasure every week that will go to help someone else-- that will lift someone else’s burdens? What is an appropriate percentage of my income to give to God? 1% 5% 10%? Am I using my talents to make the world more beautiful, to glorify God so that strangers and neighbors and family may believe in Him? Could I get to daily mass during the week, or could I do spiritual reading, if I spent less time on social media, if I didn’t stay up so late watching television?
At the end of every day, we do well to make an examination of conscience—an account of how we have spent our time, talent, and treasure—to repent of our selfishness and to seek God’s help in being more generous the next day.
Just like last week, this week’s parable contains challenge, warning and promise. Yes, we are challenged to ensure we are honest and prudent before God, and we are warned, that we will, at the end of life, be required to give a full account of our stewardship before God. But we also hear God’s promise: those who are faithful shall be known as children of the light; a “tranquil life of devotion and dignity”, as St. Paul, describes in our second reading, “is pleasing to God.” And shall be rewarded in eternity.
For to the extent which we have given ourselves away in this life, in imitation and in union with Christ Our savior, we will be blessed in eternity. So may we be generous for the glory of God and salvation of souls.