November 19, 2017
33rd Sun Ordinary Time
Sunday 10 am & 4:30 pm
Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31; 1 Thess 5:1-6; Matthew 25:14-30
I absolutely & wholeheartedly believe in the concept of “Stewardship!” Yes you heard it right, I said the S-word – Stewardship. You might be thinking, “Are you crazy? Why would you believe so much in Stewardship? That’s just about giving money right ($)?” If that’s what you think it is then you have it all wrong. Our readings this Sunday help us to understand the concept of Stewardship and its vital importance in the life of the Christian disciple.
This is the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary time and the 2nd to the last Sunday of the Church (Liturgical) Year. At this time of the year the Church always focuses on preparing for the End Time, the Final Judgement and the 2nd Coming of Christ. If that’s the case then why am I talking about Stewardship? First of all, I only preach the cards I am dealt (the readings for that Sunday). And second because living Stewardship IS preparing for the End Time and the Final Judgement!
Before I get into the readings and the message for today let’s define the meaning of Stewardship: (1) “The grateful response of a Christian disciple who recognizes and receives God’s gifts and shares these gifts in love of God and neighbor.” (All things are gifts given to us, our time, our talent & our treasure.) (2) Stewards are caretakers or managers of what belongs to another. (We don’t really own anything. All that we have is because of God and is on loan to us from Him.) (3) It is the essence of Christianity. (It is a spirituality. A way of life. It is what a Christian disciple does after they say “I believe”. It is the verb form or the action of living the Gospel.) And (4) Stewardship helps us trust not in the created things but in the Creator.
The first reading this Sunday is from the Book of Proverbs, one of the Wisdom books. And on the surface it speaks of the value of a worthy wife. You might ask, “What does that have to do with Stewardship?” It has everything to do with it! This reading speaks of the attributes of a worthy wife which are also the attributes of a good Christian Steward (male or female): “She works with loving hands…she puts her hands to the distaff and her fingers ply the spindle. She reaches out to the poor and extends her arms to the needy…and she fears the Lord.” In other words, a worthy disciple, a worthy steward of the Gospel has the same attributes described in this reading and is a wise steward of God’s gifts. The worthy steward uses their gifts inside and outside the home. And they fear the Lord (reverence, awe)…The worthy steward is strong in faith, has great compassion, puts God’s gifts to use for the good of the Kingdom as is described to us in this reading from Proverbs.
The second reading is from St. Paul’s Letter to the Thessalonians (say that fast 5 times!). St. Paul speaks of the 2nd Coming & the Final Judgement, “For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” Then he says, “People will say peace and security, then sudden disaster comes upon them, and they will not escape…But you brothers and sisters, are not in darkness for that day to overtake you like a thief. For all of you are children of the light and of the day.” Living the spirituality of Stewardship in our daily lives makes us “children of the light”. Living Stewardship as a way of life (the sharing of our gifts) keeps us prepared for the end time, either the 2nd Coming of Christ or our own personal end, so that it will not catch us by surprise like a thief in the night. Those who live Stewardship are always ready, are always “alert & sober” as St. Paul tells us…I know this sounds morbid but we are all going to die someday (death & taxes). And because my wife & I do not want to leave the burden of our final arrangements and its financial burden & stress on our kids we have been making preparations. It’s expensive to die! But by doing this we are preparing for the end of our physical bodies. What about spiritually preparing for our death? By living Stewardship, which is the grateful response to God by the joyfully giving back a portion of our best time, talent & treasure, we are preparing for the end and beyond! By living Stewardship we are “children of light”. We are always ready, always prepared when we live Stewardship.
And this brings us to the Gospel and the Parable of the Talents. The whole point of this story by Jesus is the Final Judgment with the assessing of how well we have done with the many gifts entrusted to us…A talent to us today is something that someone is good at. But in the time of Christ a talent was a very large some of money. So taking into account both meanings of the word we can see the overall concept of Stewardship: time, talent & treasure…In the parable a man (Christ) is going on a long journey (from time of Ascension, waiting for 2nd Coming). But before He leaves He entrusts His servants (us) with His possessions (gifts). To one person He entrusts 5 talents, to another 2 talents & to another 1 talent. Meaning we are all given different gifts as well as different amounts of gifts. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is what we do with the gifts (talents) we are given. What are we doing with the gifts we have been given while Jesus is away before His second coming? Are we increasing them, using them for the good of others or are we burying them, keeping them to ourselves like the “wicked, lazy servant” who was thrown into the darkness? In this parable, after a time, the man came back to settle accounts with his servants according to what they have been given. There will be a time sooner or later where God will settle accounts with us according to what we have done with what we have been entrusted with.
People always seem to have time for and can afford what they value. Let me give you some examples (This is from a report taken a few years ago). Time: Each week the typical American adult watches over 38 hours of TV & videos, and spends over 9 hours per week on the internet (not including email). Youth ages 8 – 18 spend an average of 53 hours per week on electronic devices & media. Teens spend an average of 11.5 hours per week texting (averaging 826 texts per week). *The average American spends 1 hour & 38 minutes on religious or volunteer activities (includes travel time)…Treasure (money): Americans as a whole in a year - $705 billion on entertainment, $54 billion on jewelry & watches, $50 billion on shoes, $22 billion on salty snacks, $20 billion on video games, $14 billion on fragrances, $12 billion on coffee and $10 billion on Super Bowl activities & merchandise. *But spend far less on tithing (giving back to God). People seem to have time for and can afford what they value.
This is not to make us feel guilty (well maybe a little) or to say that we can’t have anything nice or fun (I do) but it is to help us take stock of our lives and what we value most. Do we give our first and our best to things that will rot away? Things that are temporary? Or as Catholic Christians do we live Stewardship by giving our first and our best to things that will last, eternal things? Like supporting God’s work here in our parish community, the building of our new church and ministries outside of our parish. How are we using our gifts (time, talent & treasure)? What are our priorities? These are the questions now and will be the questions at the Final Judgment.
So, let us all absolutely & wholeheartedly believe in and live the concept of Stewardship, “the grateful response of a Christian disciple who recognizes and receives God’s gifts and shares these gifts in love of God and love of neighbor.”
And let us mean the prayer we all prayed together at the beginning of mass, “Create in us a more open heart and greater awareness of our need to grow, to change, to be transformed, so that we may be better stewards of our gifts for the good of all.”
Living Stewardship is living ready, is living prepared!