Pray for a heart of generosity to love all

The rich become richer, the poor become poorer. Little do they know the joke is on the “abusers” when God’s judgement comes (cfr. Amos 8:7).

Sep 17, 2022

                                   Reflecting on our Sunday Readings with Fr George Ho OCD

25th Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)
Readings: Amos 8:4-7;
1 Timothy 2:1-8;
Gospel: Luke 16:1-13

Christmas was not around the corner yet, but the little “me” was already happily devouring a children’s book written by Charles Dickens, called The Christmas Carol. It is a story that talks about the transformation of the cold hearted and mean spirited protagonist, Ebenezer Scrooge, after the visits of the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, also selfish and greedy as him, who died seven years earlier, and three other ghosts of Christmases past, present, and future, over the course of a Christmas Eve night.

The story begins with Scrooge sitting in his office, being quite a “wet blanket” to people who love Christmas: his underpaid but kind hearted clerk, Bob Cratchit; his jolly nephew, Fred; and two solicitors who stopped by to ask for alms for the poor. He was not only mean, but stingy. In fact, Charles Dickens said that he was so stingy that in that “cold, bleak, biting weather, Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk’s fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal”.

However, what caught my eye was the fate of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, who appeared as a ghost to him that very night, warning Scrooge about his future fate if he did not change his selfish ways. In this scene, Marley is said to be condemned to wander the world bound by chains that he “forged in life”. This long chain that “wound about him like a tail” was made of “cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel”, items that he used to hold or record his wealth when he was still alive! He who was once the master of money, now became a slave of his wealth and riches, even after his death! In a chilly voice, Marley told Scrooge that this chain was made “link by link, and yard by yard; [he] girded it on of [his] own free will, and of [his] own free will [he] wore it.”

Certainly such an unsettling description should have made a lot of Dickens’ readers reflect — if with Marley’s free will he forged such an atrocious chain in life, how about us who should be “masters” of our doings but become “slaves” of our own deeds, especially when it comes to the “mammon” of our life?

Do we go around exploiting others who are least fortunate than us just to milk maximum profit out of them in order to make ourselves rich, just like the merchants during the time of the prophet Amos? They marked up their price, altered their scales, even sold worthless goods, so that they could become rich in a jiffy, even to the point of letting the poor and their own people, poorer and impoverished, never giving them a second thought or chance to live (cfr. Amos 8:4-6)!

The rich become richer, the poor become poorer. Little do they know the joke is on the “abusers” when God’s judgement comes (cfr. Amos 8:7). Possibly then, they would need to carry those clanking chains that they have put around the waist of their fellow slaves, walking around, groaning and lamenting over their greed and misdeeds. All these perhaps will have a different ending altogether, if they used their shrewdness to secure a place in heaven, just like the cunning steward who tried to curry some favour from his master’s debtors in the hope that he would have some future stability when he was fired by his master for good (cfr. Luke 16:1-13)! While all this drama of “justice and punishment” seem to be some popcorn worthy material, during the Last Judgement, I hope that this does not happen to anyone of us, God’s children of light!

In fact, as children of light, there are two things we can do to remedy such problems: firstly, we should help the poor to restore their dignity, and to build bridges between the rich and the poor so that the rich’s wealth can help those who have very little or no means to live, which can come in the form of education, healthcare, also employment with just wages.

It is only then that people from all walks of life can adequately have “access to all the other goods which are destined for our common use” (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, no. 192). Secondly, in order to make sure these humanitarian projects work, we should follow St Paul’s counsel to Timothy, to include all people, Christians and non-Christians, kings, and all in authority in our prayer life, so that all will be enlightened and inspired by the Holy Spirit to do good and to restore peace and justice in our society.

If a little Christmas magic could save Scrooge from eternal peril, I am sure that prayers will do the same for anyone who prays. Only then can we be like Scrooge at the end of the book: free and happy! Let us ask our Lord Jesus Christ to give us that heart of generosity to love and to give, so that the chain of misery will be far from our necks!

(Newly ordained Fr George Ho is a Sabahan Carmelite friar based in the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur)

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