The Catholic lectionary readings for June 23 contain so much good stuff. I wrote about them on the Ignatian Solidarity Network’s Rise Up reflections. And here’s what I didn’t have room for…

People are more valuable than money. Yet mainstream American culture fights to the death to make us believe that wealth is located in monetary possessions, not relationships. Even the disciples in the feeding of the 5,000 were initially focused on money, rather than people.

But you know who knew this wisdom and acted on it? Abram.

Let’s explore this Melchizedek (mel-KEE-zeh-deck) story more closely. We only hear a snippet of the saga in the assigned reading, but Genesis 14 describes a giant battle among many kings. These kings “plundered” Abram’s nephew’s wealth and tribe, so Abram sets out to get it back.

And he succeeds.

And then a priest shows up. And he says he’s the priest of El Elyon: the Most High God – the Canaanite name for the One God of Israel.

(Say what? We’re in Canaan, a foreign land… the land of outsiders, the unchurched, the ungodly. Why would there be a priest here?)

He brings out the bread and wine and blesses Abram in the name of the Most High God: El Elyon.

And then, one of the warring Kings proposes to Abram: “Give me back the people but keep all the plunder for yourself.” (Genesis 14: 21).

Why does he want the people and not the treasure?

This guy knows that bodies, hearts, and minds are ultimately far more valuable than money; a brainwashed group of humans – or perhaps even an enslaved population of humans – would be far more valuable to an opportunistic leader, hellbent on empire-building.  

The flipside of this evil manifestation is that relationships (whether cultivated for good or evil) are more powerful, functional, and enduring than cash. A large tribe of people can surely defeat a small group of folks with a huge amount of money.

Abram refuses the deal: “I swear to God, The High God, Creator of Heaven and Earth, this solemn oath, that I’ll take nothing from you, not so much as a thread or a shoestring.” (Genesis 14: 22-24, The MSG translation).

Did the immediately prior encounter with the priest remind Abram of the wisdom that comes from El Elyon, the Most High?

Where do you feel God calling you to pay attention to people, rather than things? Where has the wealth of deep relationships borne fruit in your life?

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