There was a journalist in the mid-twentieth century named Sydney J Harris. He wrote for the Chicago Tribune. He once made a powerful observation. He said, “Men make counterfeit money; in many more cases, money makes counterfeit men.”
Mr. Harris is spot on. Money, when we serve it, has a way of making us forget that we are human. The Catechism says that what makes us human is that we who are made in the image of God are able to share “by knowledge and by love” in the very life of God.
St. Paul says something of the same thing in our second reading today. Saint Augustine summarizes our Christian tradition well in saying that what makes us human is that we able to love; we can will it.
We are capable of loving and that makes us human.
But when we serve money–or power, or prestige, or popularity–we are no longer capable of this kind of love. We are no longer being true to our nature as humans. We are counterfeit people, fakes.
Maybe you have had the experience of watching people fight. It is a horrible thing. Often it is about money, as our Gospel says today and our first reading, too. In the first reading, we find the Prophet Amos, who lived in the northern kingdom of Israel at a time of great economic growth. He is speaking to the rich who trample upon the poor, who cheat them out of money and land and what little they have. They hated the holy days because on those days they couldn’t sell their stuff and carry on their money-making schemes. Amos tells them they are not being human to each other. So obsessed with money and territory, they are trampling upon one another. They are not loving, not being human.
I have a fish tank. In it I have some wonderful fish. But a few of them are a little territorial. One fish has a little cave. Thing is, he doesn’t like to share. The sucker fish sometimes like to go over there and clean up his house, but he bites and jabs them. He chases them and bullies them. He refuses to act civilly, to be flexible with his timetable, to allow for another to share in his life.
I can excuse him. He is a fish. But humans who act the same way?
In Msgr’s absence this past week, I think I anointed ten people. Life is short. Let’s be good to each other. Let’s be human to each other, lest we be counterfeit men.