Saturday, September 17, 2016

Take the money?

An angel appeared at a faculty meeting and told the dean that to reward him for his years of devoted service he could choose one of three blessings: either infinite wealth, infinite fame or infinite wisdom. Without hesitation, the long-time educator asked for infinite wisdom. “You got it!” said the angel, and disappeared. All heads turned 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 brimming with infinite wisdom and said, “I should have taken the money.”

What a great week this has been for our beloved Red Sox! Holding on to first place in the division and how about Hanley Ramirez’ walk off home run on Thursday night against those Yankees! It looks like it will be a great post season. I am not only a fan of baseball, but I also love baseball movies. Just think of some iconic lines that come from baseball movies. “If you build it, he will come,” from Field of Dreams. Or my favorite line, “There’s no crying in baseball!” from League of their Own. I recently re-watched another great baseball move, 42, which tells the story of Jackie Robinson and how he became the first African-American to play in the major leagues.

There is a dramatic scene in the movie when Dodger’s owner Branch Rickey offers to sign Robinson. “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 because of the color of his skin.

But, through it all, Jackie kept his cool. He turned the other cheek. And so did Branch Rickey who was also hounded for signing Robinson. Together, they changed the face of baseball and professional sport for the better. Yes, Branch Rickey did a noble thing breaking down the color barrier in baseball, but the movie reminds you that he was also a smart man and not all of his motives were quite so pure. There was one scene when Rickey, 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 noble thing, Rickey was still a smart business man.

That scene came to mind as I reflected on today’s Gospel. 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 more simply, “People work harder for material reward than we do for heavenly rewards.” Jesus challenges us not only to strive for goodness, holiness and righteousness, but He also calls us to be smart and committed and eager in pursuing these heavenly things. He wants us to work just as hard and as smart for His Kingdom as we do to make our lives comfortable and successful.

This is also the message Pope Francis has been sharing over and over during the last three years. He wants us to think about and strive for the important things. For example, he said, “If you break a computer it is a tragedy. But poverty, and the real needs 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 parts of the world there are children who have nothing to eat, that's not news, it seems normal. That some homeless people die of cold on the streets is not news. It cannot be this way! In contrast, a 10 point drop on the stock market is a tragedy. A person dying is not news, but if the stock market drops it is a tragedy!” It cannot be this way.

The challenge of our Gospel, the challenge of 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, the refugee, and those on the margins all around us, as we care for ourselves? We are called to be recreated, made new, through our Baptism, to see with new eyes through our 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.

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. Open our minds to your word, even when it disturbs us more than we want to be disturbed. 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 the Lord give you peace.

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