September 17-18: Preparing to Celebrate Sunday’s Mass

Years ago, the eighth-graders at a school had to write an essay on “The adventures of a dollar bill.” Nowadays it would probably be “The adventures of a one hundred dollar bill.” On average, a dollar bill has have a life-span of about 6 years. After passing through many hands, the same bill is recalled and incinerated.

Don’t you think it would be fascinating to follow a new dollar bill’s uses from the moment it came fresh and crisp off the mint until it was removed from circulation? Every crease, every stain on it, would have a tale to tell. Did it pass through wallets and purses, pockets and handbags? Who would know where it had been and on what it was spent? Did it have joyful moments and sorrowful moments? Did it even have its glorious moments?

What are the chances that a typical dollar bill was used to buy drugs, or to bribe someone to secure a contract? Is there any chance it was picked from someone’s pocket? Could it have been used to buy medicine for a sick child or the education of someone from a poor family? Could it have been used as an anonymous donation to a worthy cause, or as a gift to a neighbor experiencing hard times? Is there a chance it could have been sent to the Third World and fed a whole family there for a week?

Many worry about inflation and the shrinking purchasing power of the dollar as we recall what money could buy when we were younger. But, in a sense, what really devalues money is if we make bad use of it. Jesus’ point in Luke 16 (which we will hear this weekend) is that the rich can be casual about money, but among the rest of us, even the price of a meal can be a precious and elusive thing.

Oscar Wilde said that a cynic is “one who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” People of faith should be the reverse: those who have less interest in the price of a thing than in its true value.

Let us pray. “God our Savior, you call us to serve you with our whole heart, mind, and soul. Make us wise and resourceful, with untiring concern – not for wealth or privilege – but for integrity and justice. We ask this through Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you for ever and ever. Amen.”

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