Mass celebrated at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne
Sunday 18 September 2016
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Eighty years ago the American Liberty magazine sent out one hundred letters to people selected at random. Each letter contained a dollar bill and the explanation that it represented an adjustment of a billing error made in response to a complaint. Actually no complaint had been registered and the dollars were sent out simply as a test of the honesty of those who received them. Of the one hundred dollars sent out only twenty-seven were returned.
In 1971 the same magazine conducted the same test. On the second occasion only thirteen dollars were returned. We might well ask, how many dollars would be returned if that test was repeated today! Cheating seems to be so common today that one can only wonder. People cheat at exams, sample food without paying, practise shop lifting, employees pilfer supplies from work, home owners meddle with television cable lines and electric, gas or water meters to receive these commodities without paying for them. People drive off at the petrol pump; companies falsify their records for billions of dollars, and so on.
Today, dear friends, Amos and Jesus and Paul challenge us to run a system test on our ethics in order to allow the light of God’s truth to expose and purge that which is unworthy of a disciple of Jesus. Amos spoke strongly against those who take advantage of the poor. Saint Paul reminds us of the importance of frequent prayer so that we will encounter God and know the truth about our actions. In the Gospel today a manager stealing his employer’s property is exposed. That manager’s shrewd use of his worldly wealth was even praised by Jesus because of the sense of purpose it brought.
Yet we know that the seventh commandment of God, quoted by Our Lord in Saint Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 19, verse 18, says, ‘You shall not steal.’ This commandment forbids unjustly taking or keeping the goods of one’s neighbour and wronging him in any way with respect to his goods. It commands justice and charity in the care of earthly goods and the fruits of men’s labour.
For the sake of the common good it requires respect for the universal destination of goods and respect for the rights of private property. Christian life strives to order this world’s good to God and to fraternal charity.
We cannot just look at monetary profit. Everyone should make legitimate use of their talents to contribute to the good of all. Access to employment should be open to all and a just wage is the fruit of legitimate work.
Our Lord’s own words, “Love one another as I have loved you”, and our petition in the opening prayer asking God to guide us as he guides creation, according to his law of love, remind each of us that we have responsibilities that what we are and have is there for God and for others. Saint John Chrysostom said, “Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs.”
Today we thank God for the entertainment which sport and football provide and for the enjoyment which people receive. We would ask the question in these days of the huge financial empire that is football, as to whether it adequately achieves the purpose for which it is intended. We should remember that justice and charity in the administration of earthly goods and the fruit of our labour is commanded by God and the goods of creation are destined for the entire human race and so we have to avoid any exploitation and above all to avoid theft.
The Lord challenges us in the Readings, chosen by the Church from Scripture, to see clear responsibilities for others, to look at justice and charity in our actions and to think further than our own will. This is the Gospel given challenge for us today.
+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.