“You cannot serve both God and mammon.”  We all know that Jesus is an excellent teacher and, on this Catechetical Sunday, we commission all of our teachers – those in our school and in our PREP, as well as you parents, the primary teachers of your children – to follow the example of teaching as Jesus did.  His lesson today is summarized in the last line of today’s gospel passage:  you cannot serve both God and mammon.  We all know who God is and how we are to serve him: by loving him and our neighbor.  But, what does it mean to serve mammon?  We first have to understand what mammon is.  If you look it up in the dictionary, you will see that it is simply riches or material wealth.  There is nothing wrong with material wealth.  But, serving it above God leads us to the position where we hear Amos condemn some of his wealthy countrymen in today’s first reading.  In the first reading, we hear Amos condemn the wealthy of Israel.  They can’t wait for the Sabbath and the new moon – occasions when they are called to stop their work and turn to worship God – to be over so that they can sell their grain.  And, when they do so, they are cheating their customers, diminishing the ephah and increasing the shekel.  We all know what a shekel is; it’s a form of currency used in the ancient Middle East and still used today in Israel.  But, what’s an ephah?  It’s a unit of dry measure, about the size of a bushel.  The wealthy merchants were reducing the amount of grain they were selling, claiming that it was an ephah when it really wasn’t.  And, they were raising the prices of their goods.  It sounds like what’s happening in our grocery stores today.  The packets are getting smaller while the prices are going up.  Driven by greed, the wealthy are taking advantage of the poor and neglecting their worship of God. They are serving mammon above God. The Lord sends Amos to announce the result of their hypocrisy: Never will I forget a thing they have done

A second lesson comes from the parable that Jesus tells in the Gospel about the dishonest steward. The steward is fired for squandering the master’s property, but then commended for making deals to benefit himself.  Here, Jesus isn’t teaching us that it’s OK to be dishonest.  He is teaching us to be prudent in how we use all the wealth we have, as prudent as the dishonest are in amassing material wealth for themselves.

For disciples of Jesus, being prudent first means acknowledging that all gifts come from God and are to be used for the greater good, not just for our own gain.  We are to use our skills and expertise – as well as some of our honestly earned wealth – for the common good and the service of others, especially those in the greatest need.  That makes us good stewards of the gifts we have been given. 

Jesus also teaches in this Gospel passage about the importance of being trustworthy.  When we labor with honesty, serve those in need, work for justice and contribute to charity, we use our talents to show our love – and God’s love – for our brothers and sisters.  That’s how we are trustworthy stewards.  These are the lessons we learn in today’s readings.

It is a challenge to keep God first in our lives and to always act justly, prudently, and honestly.  But we are not alone as we struggle to do this. Christ is with us through the Holy Spirit to inspire and encourage us. Christ is with us in the Eucharist, to strengthen our desire to become one with him and one like him.  That’s why we treasure the great gift of the Eucharist and gather around his table regularly to hear his lessons and receive his life-giving Body and Blood. 

So, these are the lessons we are to teach our children: to serve God and to come around his Son Table to be nourished so that we can live the lessons we learn.

Today, we commission men and women in our parish who have listened so carefully to this message that Jesus taught his first disciples – and every generation of disciples after that, until today – that they are willing to share their faith with our children.  Teachers in our school and PREP are here with us and I want to take this opportunity to thank them, in the name of all of us, for their generous response to this important call.  In a few minutes, I will call on them to recommit themselves to another year in this essential ministry in our parish.  And, I will ask you to join me in praying to God for them, that they may always strive to share with their students – our children – what they have come to know from their own encounter with Jesus as they ponder his Word and study the Church’s teachings. 

As I always do on occasions such as this, I also want to remind you, the parents in our congregation, that these teachers can only reinforce what you teach your children at home.  After all, you are the primary teachers of your children in all things, including your faith.  I know how seriously you take your responsibility as parents of your precious children – whom God has entrusted to you to lead back to him.  And so, I ask the entire parish community to pray that you, too, will be strengthened in your resolve to grow in your relationship with our Lord and share your faith joyfully and generously with your children.

Even when he faced his own suffering and death at the hands of his enemies, Jesus was silent and submissive, humbly accepting the very painful, humiliating path his heavenly Father had laid out for him.  God though he was, Jesus was always attentive to serving his Father.  Let us reflect on the great love that God has shown us through the teaching and example of his son and be eager to teach our children these life-giving truths of our faith.  After all, as we hear so clearly in today’s second reading, God wills everyone to be saved and we want to be among those who are saved and welcomed into God’s everlasting, ever-loving embrace in heaven.