Sept 17 & 18, 2016
25th Sun in Ord Time
Sat 4:30, Sun 8 & 10
Amos 8:4-7; 1 Tim 2:1-8; Luke 16:1-13
The readings on this 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time challenge us to make a decision: whom will we serve, God or stuff? Jesus pulls no punches as He says in the Gospel, “No servant can serve two masters.”
And as usual, the 1st reading sets the stage for the Gospel. In the 1st reading the Lord God speaks through the Prophet Amos as He starts off, “Hear this.” Which means, if you know what’s good for you, listen up! In this passage God is shouting-out against His people who are self-serving, using material things only for themselves, ignoring the needs of others, as the scripture said, “Hear this, you who trample upon the needy, and destroy the poor of the land.” They are even scheming up new ways to cheat, lie and steal so they can acquire more and more, as they say, “We will fix our scales for cheating.” You see if God is not in the picture, if He is not included in our human affairs, this is how the flesh reacts. It’s like that board game “Monopoly” where the object is to acquire as much as you can as fast as you can no matter what happens to everyone else. It is in our fallen nature. Just watch little kids. When one comes over to check out the other’s toy the one with the toy says, “Mine!” And pulls the toy to his or her chest. And even though he or she has plenty of toys they want more right?!! That’s how we are with “stuff” if God is not in the picture.
And that leads us into the Gospel where a rich man brings his steward before him accusing him of squandering his property. The steward was supposed to be the caretaker of the rich man’s belongings but did not do a good job of it. So the rich man takes away the man’s stewardship leaving him with nothing. Well, the man panics but he figures out a plan. He calls in his master’s debtors and settles for less than what they owe. And the scripture said, “The master commended the dishonest steward for acting prudently. For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” In the story God is of course the master. So, is the Lord commending this dishonest steward, praising him?!! NO, not at all! There are two messages here. (1) Dishonesty is not being praised, but prudence, which is the virtue that helps us choose the right and helps us achieve it. Jesus is saying He wills for us His disciples to be prudent in choosing things of His Kingdom just as the world is in manipulating worldly things…(2) But the main message for today, which was set up by the Prophet Amos, is what Jesus says next, “I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” What is Jesus telling us?!! Now we are really confused! Make friends with dishonest wealth so we can make it into heaven?!! We just heard in Amos how God shouted-out against those who cheated, stole and lied. Now He is telling us to make friends with dishonest wealth?!! First we must define what is meant by “dishonest wealth” which from the original language means worldly resources or worldly “stuff”: money, houses, cars, jewelry, clothes, shoes, cell phones, etc., etc. What Jesus means by “make friends” with these things is to NOT be enslaved by them, do NOT let them control you. Do not let them become your god, more important than the true God, do not worship created things instead of the Creator…There’s a saying, “What do you own and what owns you?” In other words, by “making friends” with material things they are not your master. We can take them or leave them. Material things are not evil in themselves, we make them evil when we allow them to possess us, when they have control over us.
We are given more insight in the next verses as Jesus says, “If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? True wealth are things of heaven, the spiritual (faith, hope and love) which will last for eternity. Dishonest or worldly wealth will rot & fade away. Jesus goes on, “If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours?” This is the definition of a steward: one who takes care of something that belongs to another. What do we possess that belongs to another? Pretty much everything! Every good thing is a gift from God and we have been entrusted as stewards (caretakers) to be trustworthy with them, to manage them, but to always remember they are only on loan to us. This is everything: our own bodies, our spouses, our children, our parents, our homes, our cars, our jobs, our clothes, our time, our talent and our treasure, the environment and everything else in between. We must always be thankful for what we have been given and always share from what we have been blessed with because these things don’t really belong to us in the first place.
But really, does God need a portion of our money or our possessions? No He doesn’t. But He knows by guiding us and encouraging us to let go of “stuff” is for our own good. Stewardship of treasure is not about giving to a need, but rather it is about our need to give, a need to make sure that material possessions do not control our lives. Do you know that God thinks this is so important for us that about ½ of the parables of Jesus in the Gospels have to do with money or with material possessions? Half!!! Jesus teaches about it so much and so often because He knows that love of the material can actually keep us separated from Him. And He does not want that. He wants us close to Him. He wants us to trust in Him.
And as Bishop Robert Barron says, the secret to living Stewardship of Treasure is holy detachment. In other words, let go, bless and you will be blessed. Don’t hold on to anything too tight but give as God has given to you and continues to give to you. We can never out give God. Just try it…There is a worldly saying, “The one who dies with the most toys wins.” Wins what? A free pass to the eternal fire? The Gospel is always a 180, total opposite from the world so maybe the Christian saying should be “The one who dies with the least toys wins.” We were playing a card game on Labor Day Weekend in our back yard (no gambling though). The game was Phase 10, something like Rummy. The object is to build sets and runs and then discard all your cards, not getting caught with a bunch of points counting against you. The one with the least points at the end wins. This is a great analogy of the Stewardship of Treasure we are called to…holy detachment…the one with the least at the end wins. Look at the recently canonized St. Teresa of Calcutta, aka Mother Teresa. She is a perfect example of this. Now she has won Sainthood in heaven…A few weeks ago the Gospel was about the narrow gate into heaven. If we try to get through the narrow gate with too much “stuff” we will not make it through.
And to practice Stewardship of Treasure for our own good the Lord God gives us plenty of opportunities: every Sunday as we come forward during mass to offer a prayed about portion of our treasure; here at Resurrection as we build our new church; ministries of charity here at Resurrection, and in the greater community like Interfaith, Father Joe’s Village, and Catholic Charities to name a few. God even provides opportunities for us with our family members and our neighbor in the community. When we give we are not giving to man or an institution we are giving to God when we offer a portion of our gifts. This is not a one or two time thing, this is a way of life. Why? Because it frees us from “slavery to stuff” and allows us to be close to our God. It teaches us to trust in Him. And it gives us a joy that things cannot give. We are all made with a God-hole that no material thing can satisfy. Only Jesus can truly satisfy us when we are free.
The 3 pillars of Stewardship are Time, Talent & Treasure. Today’s message is obviously Treasure. I know talking about money and material things makes us uncomfortable. But that’s what the Word of God and the Gospel is supposed to do…get us out of our comfort zone, stir us up, cause us to think, cause us to respond. And don’t shoot me, I’m just the messenger. It’s Jesus who is talking about it!
So hear this! The readings today challenge us to make a decision. Jesus said, “No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.” What will our decision be? For today and for the rest of our lives? If we choose to live Stewardship of Treasure it will be for our good now and for eternity. And it will be good for the overall Kingdom of God.
Whom will we serve, God or stuff?? As for me and my wife, we choose God!