Fr. Gerry Kelly, M.M,, considers how we can live out our call to worship God, not mammon.
Amos was a simple man: “He was a herdsman and pruned sycamore trees.” He felt the call from God to be a prophet and he set out for the north of Israel to Bethel. Bethel was experiencing prosperity at the time. Amos spoke out against the wealth in Bethel which was ill gained; the wealthy were manipulating currencies, adjusting the scales and mistreating the workers. His message was direct and uncompromising. He told the people that, because of their social injustice and religious arrogance, the Lord would punish them. He based this denunciation on their history and traditions: the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt, and He expected of them justice and righteousness. This injustice and idolatry were sins against the light and blessings granted to Israel. In response to his prophetic words, the local priest drove Amos out of Bethel.
In the Gospel, Jesus is similarly direct. He tells his disciples, "No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon." Mammon refers to wealth that is gained at the expense of others.
Today, Pope Francis is emphatic about this. He calls all of us to work to eliminate structural causes of poverty and to promote the integral development of the poor, as well as to participate in small acts of solidarity in meeting the real needs that we encounter. He has said, "When the global economy is centered on the god of money and not the human person... You've driven out the marvel of creation, man and woman, and put money in their place. This is a basic act of terrorism against all humanity" (In flight Press Conference from Poland to Rome, July 31, 2016).
Pope Francis also tells us that "Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labor is not mere philanthropy. It is a moral obligation. For Christians, the responsibility is even greater: it is a commandment. It is about giving to the poor and to peoples what is theirs by right." (Evangelii Gaudium, 191-192)
Pope Francis emphasizes the importance of becoming acquainted with other peoples and other cultures. This helps us to grow. If we isolate ourselves we have only what we have grown up with; we cannot develop culturally. But if we seek out other people, we go out of ourselves and start the most beautiful adventures. We grow, we develop and mature.
I participate in many short-term missions now. These short-term missions are made up of groups of lay people who go for one or two weeks to serve the poor. They go on medical missions, home repair missions, and missions where the proclamation of the Gospel is foremost. These experiences open us up to many of the great injustices that prevail in our world.
This Sunday I am in Honduras with a large medical mission of 60 people. We are here each year. We are in a country that has suffered from corruption and repression. Many of the people of Honduras have had to flee because of threats from gangs and drug traffickers. Their health care and educational levels are minimal. Many of them have had to pay coyotes, or smugglers, large amounts of money to guide them to the United States border. I go to the U.S.-Mexico border several times per year to aid those who are seeking asylum. I listen to their stories of going hungry and of being robbed and assaulted on their journeys. There is a great need for immigration policy reform so that migrants can be treated with human dignity when they reach our border.
I also go to Guatemala each year with a vision clinic. We go to the village of Joyaba, where the Quiche people live. We examine eyes, provide glasses, and perform cataract operations. Here, six out of ten people live below the poverty line. Nearly half of the population suffers from chronic malnutrition. There is extensive corruption and violence. The region has suffered a drought and the price of coffee, its main crop, has dropped. The area is experiencing the largest percentage of emigration in Latin America. We listen to their stories and work to heal the inner wounds that still remain in their hearts. They miss their family members so dearly.
Pope Benedict XVI has reminded us that "being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or of a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction." (Deus Caritas Est. 1)
We celebrate the Eucharist this Sunday. We meet Jesus in this sacrament. From this encounter we are challenged to serve one master: God. We need to reject mammon and serve God with the energy of Amos, putting into practices the teachings of Pope Francis.
Photo by Albert Dezetter, available in the public domain.