Give what you cannot keep, to gain what you cannot lose!

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25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C: Sept. 22, 2013
Amos 8:4-7; Ps 113; 1 Tim 2:1-8; Luke 16:1-13

Today we hear our Lord Jesus tell the parable that is often known as the “dishonest steward.” And this is a parable that often puzzles people. We might wonder: Why does the steward’s master commend him for changing the promissory notes of the debtors? Is Jesus telling us that we should act like the steward; and, if so, how?

It seems that Jesus is shifting between different details of his parable, and different analogies, in a way that can be confusing. But if we dig into this a bit, I think we discover a single, basic message that he is trying to convey to us.

To start with, we can say that we are like that steward—you and I. Like him at the beginning of the parable, we are here in this earthly life, with our current situation and quite a number of resources at our disposal. What resources do we have? Well,

  • certainly money and material possessions;
  • and also our talents and our experiences;
  • our relationships, including family and friends;
  • and our time, all the minutes of each day.

We have all of this at our disposal.

But this will not last forever. The man in the parable is about to lose his stewardship position: his job, his home in the master’s household, his whole situation. Very soon he will be out on the street and everything will be different. All of the resources he used to have will be out of his hands, forever. And so it is with us too. One of these days, our earthly life will come to an end—when we die, or when Jesus returns, whichever comes first. And at that point all of our former resources will be left behind. As they say, you can’t take it with you: all of that money and talent and relationships and time, will all be left behind.

And so the question for the steward, and for us, is: While we still have access to these temporary resources in our current situation, is there some way of using them that will gain for us eternal resources, that will last forever in our future situation?

And then Jesus comes at this same question from a different angle. These resources that we have now are not truly ours; they belong to the Lord as their true owner, and we are simply stewards; he has appointed us to manage, to administrate, them according to his purposes. So it is not a question of what we want to do with these resources; but of what he, the owner, wants us, the stewards, to do with his resources. And why should he entrust us with true, eternal wealth, if we have not been faithful with the ephemeral, deceptive wealth that we have now?

So we have these two questions: How to handle these temporary resources in order to gain for ourselves eternal resources? And: What does the true owner want us, as stewards, to do with these temporary resources that belong to him? And, of course, the answer to both questions is the same.

We know that many around us get caught up in the things of this world. Rather than using these things, they seek them as if they were the goal, as if they were the purpose of their lives; they serve them as if they were their god. This is what we heard in the first reading, from the prophet Amos: about people who can’t wait to get done with their prayer and worship to God, in order to get back to the project of making themselves rich; and who are ready to cheat and to oppress the poor, in order to make themselves rich. And we know that there are many who want: a great house in a great neighborhood; a great car; a great job with a great salary; great activities, great vacations; and so on. They slave away in hopes of buying happiness.

But will it work? As our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has recently reminded us: “Seeking happiness in material things is a sure way of being unhappy.” And that’s only in this life; to say nothing of the next.

But what does God want? We heard St. Paul say in our second reading that God wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth. God wants our hearts to be transformed so that they become as loving and generous as the Sacred Heart of Jesus; we wants our hearts to become the hearts of saints. And he wants to meet the many needs of people around us, both material and spiritual, through us. And these things go together.

  • The material resources that God has given to you and me, he has given not only to supply our needs but also those of others. He wants us to take good care of these things that he created, so that we can use them to supply the needs of those who need them.
  • And he has given us spiritual gifts as well. For there are so many who need love; who need mercy; who need encouragement; who need to know the truth; who need to grow in goodness. And God has given each of us spiritual gifts that we can give in turn to those around us.

What needs have you seen around you? Material needs? Spiritual needs? What gifts do you have in your hands that could meet those needs? Is the Lord moving the love in your heart to use those temporary resources to meet those needs?

And when you do this: then you will find the happiness of love and giving even in this life; then you will be making yourself friends in eternity; then you will be fulfilling the purposes of the Creator of all these things, who will say to you: “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.” (Matt 25:21)

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