Our First Reading began with several general assumptions, things such as slavery taken for granted as inevitable parts of life in the period of history for which it was written. But life has changed and history has moved on. Nevertheless there are lessons to be learned from this narrative when we apply it to our present generation.
We know from our study of history that slavery has been recognized as an abuse of human rights. It has been outlawed now in most parts of the world for over a hundred years or more. But we can see that we still have employee and employer relationships that amount to a kind of slavery. Abuse of human rights can still be seen and viewed from the standpoint of Jesus’ teachings and brought into line with true godliness and mutual respect for one another’s humanity.
I think we know from our own observation of human relationships that there are those in our own generation who engage in “morbid craving for controversies and for disputes about words.” (1 Tim. 6:4a) We can still read in our newspapers about “envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions and wrangling among those who are depraved in mind bereft of the truth.” (v.4b)
To counteract these abuses we can benefit from the reminder that “we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it.” We can meditate on the thought that “if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.” (vv. 7-8)
We can contemplate the often misquoted saying, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.” (v. 10)
When we reach the last part of the reading that we heard this morning we can be stirred to a greater devotion to the teachings of Jesus Christ. “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (vv. 11-12)
This last sentence is something we can remember when we find ourselves surrounded by contentions in the world around us, or discouraged by the burdens with which we are sometimes faced. “Take hold of eternal life”. This is a promise and a hope that we can hold before us as we go forward in the faith that comes to us by the gift of the Holy Spirit.
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