Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Joshua 24:1-13; Matthew 19:3-12)

A story was told of Andrew Carnegie, one’s of America’s richest men and leading philanthropists. One day a beggar asked Carnegie to share his wealth with him. Carnegie reached in his pocket, pulled out a few coins worth perhaps seven cents, and handed them to the man. The beggar was taken aback, but Carnegie explained that it was the beggar’s portion of all Carnegie’s wealth divided by the number of people in the world.

As Carnegie tried to impress on the beggar that his wealth was for everyone, Joshua reminds the Israelites that their fortune was not their own doing. Indeed, God has been their benefactor at every point in their illustrious saga. But Joshua indicates that it has not only been the Lord who provided for their needs, countless humans – Amorites, Perrezites, Canaanites, et al. -- were God’s immediate instruments leaving their prosperity to the people of Israel. His point is that the people should be grateful to God and to heed His commands which are in good part directed to social solidarity.

We must beware that selfishness and greed does not allow us to forget God and neighbor. All of us, as Joshua says, are beneficiaries of land that we did not till and cities that we did not build. Richly endowed by our forebears, we are not so much to pay back as to pay forward. That is, we are to thank God by generosity contributing to efforts which shape a society where everyone can live, grow, and prosper.