Grain, Garment, Gold
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

When election time comes, traditional politicians in the Philippines rely on three powerful factors in order to win: guns, goons, and gold. Politicians hire armed men to protect themselves or to threaten rivals. Hence, there is the proliferation of the three G’s despite the election laws regulating them. Things have not changed since forty years ago when I was a college student volunteering to watch the polls as a member of CNEA (Citizens’ National Election Assembly), to becoming a volunteer of the National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) during the Cory Aquino years, to the current NAMFREL- PPCRV (Parish Councils for Responsible Voting) under Ambassador Tita de Villa. Volunteer election watchers are wary of the same old practices.

Action starter: Act justly, love tenderly, walk humbly with your God.

The second reading taken from the letter of James, warns of attachment to another set of 3 G’s. These are the traditional marks of wealth in the ancient world – grain, garment, and gold. James warns those who have grown rich by witholding wages from their workers,

“Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries. Your wealth (of grain) has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded” (James 5:1).”

James is reminding his audience about the temporariness of wealth. He was affirming what the prophets have always cautioned about. Attachment to what is passing can lead us away from what is lasting, God Himself. One description of sin is offered by St. Thomas Aquinas, “aversio a Deo, conversio ad creaturam” - turning away from God and turning toward creatures.

In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, Jesus warns His hearers about the dangers of sin and leading others to sin. Using the semitic forceful rhetorical device of hyperbole to bring home His point, His words are unforgettable. If anyone causes these little ones to sin, better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into sea. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God maimed than to go to hell (Gehenna) complete.

Our grain, garment and gold do not do us any good in hell. Nor will our guns, goons, and gold serve us in Gehenna. These are prophetic warnings. The long line of prophets have always reminded God’s people about the choices they were making. Serve the Lord and leave your alien gods. Act justly, be not an oppressor. Be kind-hearted rather than hard-hearted. The prophet Micah puts together the essentials of living, “This is what the Lord asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God” (Mi.6:8).

As the first reading and the Gospel tells us, acting according to the Lord’s ways is not the monopoly of any one group of people. The Lord’s Spirit is not bounded by human boundaries. In the Gospel story, someone who was not part of the group of disciples was doing some good by driving out demons in the name of Jesus. The disciples tried to forbid him because he was not part of their group. Jesus’ advice was, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works miraclesin my name can soon after, speak evil of me” (Mk 9:39). The same thing happened in the first reading. Two men who were not in the gathering of elders started prophesying in Moses’ camp. Instead of stopping them, Moses said, “Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets” (Num 11:29).

Walking in God’s ways is an invitation for all.