Sunday, September 23, 2007

Being smart about faith

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 23, 2007:

An angel appeared at a faculty meeting and told the dean that he had come to reward him for his years of devoted service. He asked him to choose one of three blessings: either infinite wealth, infinite fame or infinite wisdom. Without hesitation, the dean asked for infinite wisdom. “You got it!” said the angel, and disappeared. All heads turn toward the dean, who sat glowing in the aura of wisdom. Finally one of his colleagues whispers, “Say something.” The dean looks at them all and says finally, “I should have taken the money.”

Wisdom, in the sense of being smart or shrewd as we see in today’s parable of the dishonest servant, is not an end in itself. After all, you can be smart and use your smarts to do mean things. Many con artists and criminals are smart people who use their brains to create misery in the world. Today’s parable challenges each of us to be smart, but smart in the pursuit of the Kingdom of God; just as godless people are smart in their pursuit of selfish goals and ambitions. Jesus uses the example of a smart manager in his master’s business to teach us the need to be smart in the Lord’s service. We are challenged to imitate the manager’s shrewdness, but not his dishonesty. “The master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently.”

Why did the master who had made up his mind to fire the manager now commend him? Probably the manager had been running his master’s business in a drab, routine and lifeless manner devoid of creativity and imagination. As a result the business was failing, so the master decided it was time to fire him: “Prepare a full account of your stewardship,because you can no longer be my steward.” The manager is facing a real danger of being dismissed from service. He knows the seriousness of the situation. He is not kidding himself. He knows exactly how helpless he is out there. He says, “What shall I do, now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me? I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg.” He knows he is in a very difficult and precarious situation. He scratches his head and comes up with an ingenious plan to safeguard his future. And, the master praises him because if the manager had been using such smart thinking in the daily running of the business he would have made a much more successful manager rather than a failure.

In this parable, Jesus challenges us all to also be smart managers. “Me a manager,” you say? Yes, we are all called to be managers. Do you ever stop to realize that God has entrusted the whole of His creation into our hands as His managers. Jesus, in addition to that, has entrusted the very Kingdom of God – the kingdom of love, justice and peace – into our hands as his managers. World peace and harmony, and the renewal of all things in Christ, are the business of us all, collectively and individually. Our business as followers of Christ, is to help bring about the kingdom of God starting with ourselves. We have all been given the necessary resources to do this. We have been equipped with the truth of faith, we have been empowered by the Holy Spirit who dwells in our hearts, we have been strengthened by the sacraments, and we have been given time. But, sooner or later we also will be called upon to render an account of how we have invested and managed these resources entrusted to us by the Father and the Son.

The bottom line of today’s Gospel is this: Jesus reminds us that worldly people are often more willing to sacrifice for worldly goals than Christian people are willing to sacrifice for Christian goals. We are being called to be as smart, as committed, to spiritual things as others are to worldly things. We are being called to make a commitment to the Kingdom of God in our midst.

The grace for this commitment was given to us in Baptism and Confirmation, and it is renewed every time we gather on the Lord’s Day, around the Lord’s Table, to hear the Lord’s Word, and to share in the Lord’s Supper.

If worldly people are capable of making great sacrifices for worldly goals, how much more are we, as Christians, capable of making even greater sacrifices for Jesus Christ and His Kingdom? This is the good news that the Church reminds us of in today’s readings. This is the good news that Jesus speaks of in today’s Gospel. It is the good news that you and I have the power to do great things for Jesus and for His Kingdom – if we merely choose to.

Let me end with a prayer: Lord, open our eyes to your word, even when it challenges us more than we want to be challenged. Lord, open our minds to your word, even when it disturbs us more than we want to be disturbed. Lord, help us to put your word in practice, even when it means changing our lives more than we want to change. Above all, Lord, help us realize that you want to achieve great things through us and that we can achieve great things for you if we only open our hearts to you. Open our hearts Lord.

May God give you peace.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this homily. Our deacon at our parish preached on a similar theme.