Saturday, September 22, 2007

25th Sunday Ordinary Time

25th Sunday Ordinary Time
September 23, 2007

Amos 8:4-7
1 Tim 2:1-8
Luke 16:1-13

Have you ever noticed how much the gospels teach about money and possessions? If you read with this in mind you will see that a large percentage of Jesus teaching connects in one way or another to money and possessions. It is an interesting study for those who care to take it up.

Let’s get into today’s gospel and see what it teaches us.

First the steward. He was called to account for squandering property. We are not told exactly how. But the end result is that the master’s business is losing money and as a result the steward is about to get fired.

Let me fill in a couple of details stewards and ancient businesses.
these stewards often charged a commission to the customers. This became a profit for the steward.
we know from the story that the customers “owed” something to the master. It is probable that the steward was charging interest on the loans, something which was against the biblical law. This was called “usury” in the old testament.

The steward’s response to the threat of getting fired was this. He called in the customers and apparently eliminated the commission that he charged. Maybe even some of the interest on the loan. The cuts in the promissory notes were up to 50%.

By eliminating his commission he hoped to create gratitude in his customers and thus get welcomed into their homes after he was fired. He also ensured that the debtors would pay their debt to the master more quickly. The parable ends by saying that the master praised the steward for his prudence.

The second section of today’s gospel is this series of sayings.

Jesus talks about a person being judged by his trustworthiness in small matters, or lack thereof.
Then Jesus gives them the zinger at the end. He says - No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate on and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.
Mammon means material wealth or riches. In other words, mammon is your stuff and your money. You can’t be devoted to it and to God at the same time. When all is said and done, you will love one and hate the other.

This parable and these sayings help us understand the attitude that we as Christians should have towards our money and our stuff.

Here it is. Get ready.
It all belongs to God. We are only stewards of these resources.
Period. No ifs ands or buts.

Everything we have. Our houses, our bank accounts, our possessions, our stock portfolios, everything ultimately belongs to God. Everything that we count as a material possession is a gift to us from God.

And it is a gift from God with a purpose.
I will tell you first what the purpose is not.

The purpose is not so that you and I can get rich and satisfied for our own benefit.
God does not give us our time, talents, and treasure purely for ourselves. That’s just selfishness. It is a sin. If we think that we are the sole possessors of our money and our stuff and that’s all we are after, then we are in trouble. Jesus directly implies here that the person who is greedy and selfish actually hates God.

The gift of our time, talent, and treasure. That is our abilities, money, and stuff, is meant to become a blessing from God to us for everybody.
Let me restate that. Your money. Your talents. Your time. Is given to you by God so that you can be blessed by it and use it to bless other people.

God commands this in the bible. The Old Testament commands a tithe – 10% be given back to God. The new testament instructs that Christians give as an exercise in trust and in gratitude. And God promises to bless us even more when we choose to trust by being generous.

God doesn’t need our stuff. God owns it all. But we need to exercise faith filled generosity.

Consider this. If you follow God’s commands when you have small amounts of money and resources, then it is likely that God will bless you with greater and greater amounts. He will do this because he can use you to bless people. Imagine if you had a hundred million dollars. How generous would you be then? How generous are you now in giving back to God?

If we are not faithful in small things, then God cannot use us to be a blessing to others in greater ways. So here’s the question. Will you love God with the money and the stuff entrusted to you today? Will you give and trust God? When you receive more, will you trust God and become more generous?

God intends great things for you. God wants to use you and me to be instruments of his blessing in the world.

Will you love God and trust God with everything that you have and even everything that you are? With your whole self? Will God truly be Lord of your life?

Jesus said. “No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.”

Saturday, September 8, 2007

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 9, 2007

Wisdom 9:13-18b
Philemon 9b-10,12-17
Luke 14: 25-33

“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”

What is all this hate talk here? Usually, when we talk about the good news of Jesus it is about how he revealed the love of the Father for the whole world. Is this the same man who told his followers to love their enemies and pray for their persecutors? Isn’t this the same Jesus who told his disciples to love one another as he loved them? This seems bizarre.

Likewise, at the end of the teaching today Jesus says this. “Anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”

Well, we’re not sure about that one either. Wouldn’t the world grind down to a halt if we all gave up our possessions?

This seems disturbing.

The parabolic images that go along with this teaching are not so pleasant either. An unfinished building that becomes a joke. A defeated king. Unfortunately, the third image of this teaching is not included in the reading today but I will give it to you now.

Vs. 34-35.
“Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; they throw it away. Let anyone with ears to hear listen.”

The third parabolic image is spoiled salt. Useless and worthy only of being thrown out.

What are we supposed to do with all this disturbing imagery?

Let me draw a parallel for you regarding this teaching. Maybe this will shed some light.

Whoever desires to marry must first renounce all former girlfriends or boyfriends. You can’t take them with you into the marriage. Not even one. Furthermore, whoever desires to marry must also renounce all possessions as being exclusively yours. All possessions become part of a common household for the sake of wife, or husband. In fact, when you have children, you really begin to understand detachment from things. Kids tend to break stuff. Don’t be too attached. Finally, whoever desires to marry but doesn’t make a firm commitment of love, respect, and fidelity in the marriage will experience its ruin. Decline of commitment to love, respect, and fidelity turns wedded bliss into a living hell. Like an unfinished building project. Like a defeated king. Like salt that loses its flavor. Useless and worthy only of being thrown out.

Make a little more sense now?

Jesus tells his disciples that it is the way with the kingdom he came to establish. For us to be partakers of the new covenant he asks us for a firm commitment. Don’t say yes, go part way, and then back out of it. Let your commitment be unshakeable.

Wouldn’t it be great if all marriages held together with an unshakeable commitment by both husband and wife? How good life would be if all were faithful.

Wouldn’t it be great if all Christians held to their faith and practiced it with an unshakeable commitment? How good the world would be if all were faithful to the call of Jesus?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you and I followed Jesus to the extent that everything about us and everything that we are would be devoted to the love of God? Imagine the transformative effect on my life? On your life? And on the whole world?

I suppose that the trickiest part of this whole challenge from Jesus for each of us is this. It means that I have to trust him with everything that I have and everything that I am. I have to trust that he has my best interests at heart. That he has a good plan for me within his kingdom. I have to trust that it is worth it to offer everything up to follow him. My family. My possessions. My own life. Everything.

If I don’t do it. Then I really am not his disciple. Gotta give it all. No holding back anymore.

Let anyone with ears to hear – listen.
forgot to post last week's homily. Here it is.

22nd Sunday Ordinary Time
September 2, 2007

Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29
Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24a
Luke 14:1, 7-14

Sirach tells the reader to conduct your affair with humility.
Luke tells the reader that the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

It is one of the seven virtues. It is necessary

The word humility has its roots in a couple of interesting words. Humilis means low. Another word, humus, means earth. I like that.

A way of understanding humility is to think of it as the idea of being completely grounded in reality. Feet planted firmly on the ground. You are never higher than you actually are when you are humble.

Humility is the opposite of being proud, haughty, arrogant, or assertive.

Humility is deferential towards others.

And God asks us to be humble.

Consider the humility of Almighty God. God, omnipotent, almighty, gloriously exalted in heaven, is humble. That is, completely grounded in reality. God is reality.

God comes to us in very humble ways. When the Word became flesh God decided to grow in the womb of his mother Mary. Rather than being born in the splendor of a palace he was born in a stable and laid in a manger. He grew up just like all of us. He went through potty training when he was two and zits when he was twelve. He was a humble carpenter in Nazareth before he began his ministry at age 30. He was never flashy about his ministry but did it in realistic ways. Yes, he performed miracles. He did them to show us the reality of the kingdom of God.

Consider how he comes to us today. In baptism he gives us the gift of salvation in a simple way through water and the Holy Spirit. In the sacrament of confirmation he gives us his Holy Spirit in a more profound way to empower us for ministry. But again, it is humble and quiet. At mass he comes to us through the agents of simple bread and simple wine to become spiritual food for us. Humble. Simple. Real. That is the humility of God.

And through Jesus God gives the gift of salvation to every single human person. He allows for us to receive the gift, not just of salvation from our sins, but also to become his beloved sons and daughters, heirs of his promises through Jesus.
Everybody has the opportunity to receive this gracious gift from God. None of us deserve it. All of us have committed sin.

This is why Jesus tells his disciples to be humble. The parable of the banquet warns us against all those false social distinctions. Jesus shows us how to regard one another as God regards us. Equally. That is why he tells us that we ought to be inviting the socially outcast to our gatherings.

And that is what the mass is. Everybody is welcome at God’s party. There is no distinction among us.

Our humble God gives us his own dignity through Jesus. And by becoming like our humble Jesus, we will know his glory.

Be humble.
And blessed indeed will you be.