11 November. Saturday, Week 31
Greet Prisca and Aquila, who work with me in Christ Jesus, and who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert in Asia for Christ. Greet Mary, who has worked very hard among you. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys.
Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you. I Tertius, the writer of this letter, greet you in the Lord. Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you.
Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith, to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.
Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.
"Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."
The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they ridiculed him. So he said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your heats; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God.
The list of colleagues named and praised by Paul in the final chapter of Romans shows how much he valued the contribution of others to the success of his own work. The list begins with Prisca and Aquila who risked their lives for the sake of mine. It was in their house that the Christian congregation met for prayer. Then he names the beloved Epaenetus, first fruits of his mission in Asia; Mary "who worked hard for you;" a married couple named Adronicus and Junias, whom he calls "fellow prisoners, outstanding apostles." Then there is a fleeting glimpse of Tertius, Paul's secretary, who actually penned the letter, and inserts his personal greeting before Paul mentions the last three names, "Gaius, and Erastus, and our brother Quartus."
Clearly, Paul did not see ministry as a one-man show but believed in team ministry and endorsed the gifts and talents of many others. Nor was Paul in any way a misogynist. In this list women receive as much attention as they do in Luke's gospel. In naming Prisca and Aquila as his co-workers, Paul names the woman first, she who risked her life for his sake. He praises the hard work of Mary and of Junia, whom he calls an outstanding apostle. The mention and endorsement of these co-workers is highly significant, at the end of Paul's most elaborate, theological explanation of the gospel that he preaches wherever he goes.
The gospel, as in the preceding days, says unambiguously that we are to make good use of this world's goods. If we are faithful in these small matters, we can be trusted in greater things. But do not be the slave of money. And in financial matters, very often what humans think important, God holds in contempt.
Saint Paul once wrote that money is the root of all evil (1 Tim 6:10). But what concerns Jesus is not money in itself but rather the use we make of money. He advises, "use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity." It's interesting how he uses the language of trust in relation to money. It is something that we are meant to use well, and if we show ourselves trustworthy by using it well, then later we will be blessed with genuine riches, the riches of eternal life.
More important than our possessions is what we do with what we own. Whatever resources come our way are meant, at least in part, for the service of others. The gospel challenges us every day to use generously what we have, and that includes not only our material possessions, but our gifts, talents, experience and our time. We all have much that can benefit others, if only we are willing to share it.