(For the audio version of this blog, please visit: http://brothersinchristcmf.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/Mass-Blog-for-the-4th-Sunday-in-Ordinary-Time-2023mp3.mp3)
Some scriptures and psalms are addressed to victims. A couple of those psalms, like the ones selected for this Sunday’s Mass (Ps 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10) tell us God seeks justice for the oppressed but thwarts the way of the wicked. Then, through the Corinthians, Paul personalizes God’s sympathy for the humble, telling them that even the foolish and unwise among them were chosen to “shame the wise.” The only true wisdom, we are told, can be found in the embodiment of God—Jesus himself (1 Cor 1:26-31).
Unfortunately, the wicked among us know that the best way to find victims is through the innocent—those looking for ways to do the will of God. From this knowledge, scams are devised. I received the following series of e-mail solicitations just before Christmas, claiming to be from our pastor and thus abusing our refuge in faith.
Email #1: “Season Greetings In The Name Of Our Lord Jesus Christ! May it brings blessings unto your household Amen [grammar errors are the first sign of a scam]. Please I do have a short task I want you to do for me, I would be happy if you could help me out. I will wait for your reply via email. PS; Am on a conference meeting on zoom i will only reply via email.” [second sign of a scam—limiting your access].
My innocent acknowledgment of this email that I initially assumed was from our pastor elicited Email #2:
“Good to hear from you! Please, here is what I want you to do for me because I’m a little busy this week. I have been working on incentives and I aim at surprising some of our diligent staff with gift cards today. This should be Confidential until they all have the gift cards in their email, as it’s a surprise and you will keep one for yourself too. Please let me know if you can help purchase them now? I will await your email.” [third scam indicator: the need for immediacy and secrecy—before you get wise to them and get help.]
THIS is what slapped the stupid out of me, telling me I was being had. But I HAD to see where this was going, so I responded: “What can I do for you, Father?”
Email #3: “Thank you so much. I need you to help purchase 7 quantities of eBay gift cards of $100 each totalling $700. You should get them at any store around. After you get them, please scratch the back of each card to reveal pins, then take a clear picture of each card and send them to me via email, so I can easily forward them to each staff member myself. Keep the physical cards for reference, because you will be reimbursed later. Please let me know when you are on your way to the store. I will await your email.”
I hope he’s still waiting. But rather than let this scam die from inactivity, The Holy Spirit seemed to remind me of the beatitudes detailed in this Sunday’s gospel reading to tell me this scam needs exposure to the light of truth. Consider this post a showcase of how the more this world’s evils have changed through the centuries, the more they’ve stayed the same. It is the same “humble and lowly” among us whom the prophet Zephaniah addresses in Sunday’s first reading (Zep 2:3; 3:12-13) that Jesus himself beatifies through Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:1-12a). By reaching out to the spiritually poor, the mournful, the meek, those who are hungry for justice, the merciful, the peacemakers, the persecuted and anyone targeted for evil because of belief in his name, he is embracing our innocence. He savors it so much that later in that passage he calls us “the salt of the earth.” But he warns us to be on guard against those evil forces that would hijack our innocence and convert us to evil’s banality.
“If salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”
Let this be a warning to the tasteless among us. Our Father hates evil’s banality and when the time comes, he will spit it out. (REV 3:16).