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Sunday, September 18, 2016


Monopoly of Life
Sunday, September 18, 2016

Most people have played the game of Monopoly.1 It is one of those classic games and since Parker Brothers developed the game some 75 years ago, over 750 million people have played it. Yet when one thinks of the premise of the game of Monopoly, it is quite extraordinary or even disturbing. The basic purpose of the game is to gather as much property as you can, then to build houses or hotels charging rent when others “land on your square.” The game proceeds until people run out of money to pay rent and eventually they have to declare bankruptcy. Sounds a bit like life, right! Think of it for a moment! It’s extraordinary. This is what we teach our children.

Many years ago, I was playing Monopoly with some of my younger nieces and nephews. When my nephew landed on my niece’s hotel on Broadway, she looked at how little money he had left and she said, “No, you can’t afford it. It’s okay. Rent free!” I objected, “That’s not the rule.” She said, “It’s my hotel. I can charge free rent if I want.” I said, “Okay.” Thinking to myself this game will be over quickly! Then I land on the same hotel and thought, “Rent free again.” But she looks at how much money I have saying, “That’s $200.” Again I object saying, “That’s not fair.” She says, “What? It says $200. You can afford it.” I begrudgingly said, “Okay.” Later in the game he returns her the favor when she lands on his hotel. Guess who loses first? Me! Funny, isn’t it—how when they stuck together, they stay alive and the one who was greedy, me, lost first.

Sometimes we treat life like a game of Monopoly: we amass as much property as we can and if somebody goes bankrupt, “Oh well, that is their tough luck. They landed at the wrong time and in the wrong place in life.”

Today’s reading from Amos gives us a very different message. Amos, a prophet of social justice, assures us that we will be judged on how we treat everyone. And in today’s gospel, Jesus confuses people because he seems to be rewarding a dishonest steward. But it is not what the steward does that Jesus condemns, it is why he does it. The steward is aware now that he is going to be thrown out on the streets and that he needs some relationships to make it work; so that the people will recognize him and have compassion. Ironically in his moment of weakness, he acts with compassion for those who owe him money.

Life is not a game. Life is for real. It is not just about winning; it is not about amassing wealth or owning the most properties, hotels, cars, clothes, shoes or gadgets. It is about how well we share what we have with those who have far less than us. Today, we are called to be good stewards and to share what we have been given.

1    Inspired by analogy used by Sr. Sandra DeGidio, OSM, “Homily Helps,” (St. Anthony Messenger Press: Cincinnati, OH, September 19, 2010)