Sunday, September 22, 2013

Being smart for the Kingdom

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.”

So, what a wonderful week this has been for our beloved Red Sox!  Clinching the American League East and the best record in baseball.  Let’s not forget that at this time last year we were in a deep dive that would leave us ending the season as the worst season in 47 years – and with the Sox that’s saying something!  But here we are a year later, from worst to first!  Let’s see where it goes from here.  A great moment in baseball.  I had the opportunity while on a flight earlier this summer to catch a movie that I had wanted to see in the theaters about another great moment in baseball. The move was 42 and it tells the story of Jackie Robinson and how he became the first black athlete to play in the major leagues.  It is definitely one of the great baseball movies – Field of Dreams is still my number one, but 42 is a pretty close second.

There is a dramatic scene in the movie when Dodger’s owner Branch Rickey is offering to sign Robinson to a contract.  “You will have to take everything they dish out to you and never strike back,” he tells Robinson and he was right. On the field, pitchers brushed Jackie back with blazing fastballs and opposing fans and teams taunted him.  Off the field, he was thrown out of hotels and restaurants where the rest of the team stayed and ate.

And through it all, Jackie kept his cool. He turned the other cheek. And so did Branch Rickey to was also hounded by many for signing Jackie.  But, they changed the face of baseball and professional sport for the better.  Branch Rickey was a noble man who did a noble thing trying to break down the color barrier in baseball, but the movie reminds you that Rickey was also a smart man and all of his motives were not necessarily quite so pure.  There was one scene that struck me when his character played by Harrison Ford, says, “People ask me why I want to do this?  You know why? Because I like money. And people will spend money to come see you play.” Even in the midst of doing the right and noble thing, Rickey was still a smart business man.

I was thinking of that scene as I was reflecting on our Gospel today where Jesus gives us this image of the dishonest steward.  We heard, “The children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of the light.”  Or to put it more simply, “Worldly people often work harder for worldly rewards that don’t last very long than Christians will work for heavenly rewards that last forever.”  Jesus gives us this image today because He challenges us not only to be good and holy and righteous, but He also calls us to be smart and committed and eager in pursuing the things that are good and holy in our world.  He wants us to work just as hard and just as smart for His Kingdom as we do for any of the other things in our life and in our world.

It is hard to sum up a papacy in six short months, but I think, in the remarkably brief time that Pope Francis has been our Pope, this is some of the message that he is trying to tell us.  He trying to shake us up out of our ordinary ways, out of our worldly focus and get us to think about more important things. You may have seen the extraordinary interview that he granted to America Magazine and several other Catholic publications earlier this week. If you haven’t, take the time to find it, it is extraordinary.  But, in June, he said this that I think resonates with our Gospel today, “If you break a computer it is a tragedy, but poverty, the needs, the dramas of so many people end up becoming the norm. If on a winter’s night, for example, a person dies, that is not news. If in so many parts of the world there are children who have nothing to eat, that's not news, it seems normal. It cannot be this way! Yet these things become the norm: that some homeless people die of cold on the streets is not news. In contrast, a 10 point drop on the stock markets of some cities, is a tragedy. A person dying is not news, but if the stock markets drop 10 points it is a tragedy! Thus people are disposed of, as if they were trash.” It cannot be this way.

The challenge of our Gospel, the challenge of our Holy Father Pope Francis, the challenge of our faith is this – can we be as vigilant for the things of God as we are for all the other things that are in our lives?  Can we care as much for the homeless, the hungry, the sick, the immigrant and the desolate all around us, as we care for ourselves?  We are called to be recreated through our Baptism, to see with new eyes through our life of faith – and what we are meant to see is that we are not different, we are not separate, we are not “other”. Rather, we are connected and united; we are brother and sister to each other; we are one family of God.

So let us ask God to open our ears to His word because it challenges us to be who we are called to be.  Let us ask Him to open our minds to His will for us because it shows us what it is we are to do.  Let us ask God to help us put His commands into practice, because it is through that practice that we are changed each day to more closely resemble His Son.  And above all, let us remember that God will never ask us to do anything that He won’t also bless us for beyond our wildest dreams because God is never outdone in generosity.

May God give you peace.

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