Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1) Am 8:4-7
Psalm 113:1-2, 4-8
2) 1 Tm 2:1-8
Gospel: Lk 16:1-13
Cardinal Giorgio Marengo is the youngest cardinal of the Catholic Church. He represents the remote land of Mongolia. Some two decades ago, as a Consolata Missionary, Italian born Father Marengo journeyed into the heart of a country closed in between China and Russia.
Most of this vast country’s population of some 3 million have never heard of Jesus Christ and no Catholic church existed in the community where Father Marengo began his first mission. Given that few Christians or Westerners venture into that remote part of the world, the people view missionaries with a mix of curiosity and suspicion, assuming often they are spies or agents of the state.
Father Marengo’s first step in evangelization was to build relationships and earn the trust of the people to whom he wished to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He lived among the people, many of whom are poor, sharing their language and culture, their hopes and their joys. His pastoral goal was to create a community where the Christian faith could take root in the lives of the Mongolian people.
“Being a missionary is not about spreading propaganda or ideology,” Cardinal Marengo said, “but making possible a concrete encounter with Jesus for people who otherwise would not have the opportunity.” Given his remote, mostly unnoticed missionary activity, he was completely surprised when he learned that Pope Francis had appointed him a cardinal of the church!
In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus says to his disciples, “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones.” Then Jesus goes on to remind his disciples to be single-minded in their service of God for “no servant can serve two masters. … You cannot serve both God and mammon.”
The psalmist also reminds us to be trustworthy in small things, particularly in our love for the poor and those on the peripheries and the forgotten. And so, the psalmist praises God who “raises up the lowly from the dust; from the dunghill he lifts up the poor to seat them with princes, with the princes of his own people.”
And in the second reading, St. Paul proclaims the heart of the Gospel message that is offered to all, the rich and the poor, the great and small of this world: “For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as ransom for all.”
This Gospel message, preached by St. Paul so many centuries ago, remains the heart of our Christian faith and witness as missionary disciples of Jesus today.
Throughout Scripture we encounter the love of God who desires to restore all people to friendship with him. God remains clearly on the side of the poor and blesses and comes to the help of those who love and serve the poor.
As we reflect on Jesus’ challenging words, we find in them an invitation to be mindful of the many unnoticed, even small ways in which we are called to be trustworthy in our service of God and neighbor. To be faithful in small things allows us to grow in friendship with God and in trusting prayer as we say, “speak to me, Lord.”
What are the small ways you are called to witness the love of God to others?
Sullivan is a professor at The Catholic University of America.