Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sunday word, 22 Sep 2013

Growing More Reliable
25th Sunday of the Year C (22 Sep 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Each time we gather before our triune God to worship, our triune God addresses us. Worship changes us each time we reflect on God’s word proclaimed and adjust our lives to it. One way adjusting our lives to God’s word registers is attitude: our attitude toward others; life; and creation.

The Source of All desires we respect created things not squander them. Our triune God desires we use created things to promote the dignity of all not trample the needy or cheat for private gain. Today’s gospel reading involved squandering. It involved adjusting: more vital than adjusting accounts Jesus’ parable revealed that giving alms in faith draws us and all disciples closer to God.

Humans tend to work the world, its resources and even people to private advantage: buying people with influence, status and perks and giving the poor no more mind than an old pair of shoes. We learn stories about people who give fraudulent alms; we learn nations pledge millions to help victims of disasters but their money never follows their pledges. Sadly, some individuals and nations are not reliable. Jesus’ parable is about being reliable, faithful and true.1 Jesus revealed himself as the faithful and true witness2 of divine reliability. The actions in the parable may blind us to the attitude around which we desire to adjust our lives. Let’s search for the attitude behind the actions.

Jesus told parables to teach. Jesus taught his disciples with encouragement. A saying most of us have used is one way to appreciate his encouragement here: “If we are given lemons, then make lemonade.” Because lemons are sour they easily stand for crises in our lives. We can wilt before crises, or we can respond in positive ways. Making lemonade suggests a positive response.

The crisis of Jesus’ parable is crucial to it. The master of the household occasioned the crisis: he demanded his squandering steward, Prepare a full account of your stewardship because you can no longer be my steward. He was rejected be-cause he squandered his master’s possessions. He was a cheat. The master could applaud the way the steward responded to his crisis. His response to his self-caused crisis guaranteed his acceptance by those whose payments he reduced. One can almost hear the master mutter, “I’ve got to hand it to him....”

Jesus did not reverse the Seventh Commandment, You shall not steal. That steward was a cheat. Humans are stewards of creation. Baptism made us stewards of our risen Lord and his gospel. By his parable Jesus encouraged disciples—us—to be more resourceful, more prudent and clever in our stewardship. By our stewardship we respond to our risen Lord. Our risen Lord invites us to announce his gospel by our stewardship. Our use of possessions shapes our stewardship and gospel life. We disciples ought to use possessions of this world wisely, reliably and faithfully to secure a share in the life of our triune God—our most real, lasting possession.

Jesus’ not-obviously-clear sayings following his parable clearly share a movement in that direction: reliable in something tiny, reliable in something greater; wicked in something tiny, wicked in something greater. That which is tiny refers to possessions and that which is greater refers to us giving ourselves to God, who is the most real.

Possessions, all created things can help us make a return of love to our Creator.3 Our Creator has given us them to help our stewardship. When we treat them as entitlements not gifts, then possessions and all created things become idols—Mammon. When wealth has our trust we tend not to share with others in greater need: a return of love to our Creator. From God to Mammon is always a tiny step. Our use of possessions determines how we bestow ourselves before God; whether we accept Jesus’ invitation to join him as his disciples, sensitive to others in need.

The words almsgiving triggers others: giving of our wealth to assist others. Yet the first alms any of us gives is oneself to our Creator. Giving ourselves to our Creator shapes our attitude, our interior dispositions. Attitude moves us to desire to help others. Our sense of God gracing us increases our confidence to help others. Appreciating the things of the world as gifts God gives us to assist our stewardship of the world is a potent prayer of praise. It shapes us more like Jesus, who calls and encourages us.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week consider your gifts.
  • Consider the Trinity the source of all them for you.
  • Ask Sts. Paul and Timothy to present you to Jesus. Allow your gifts to float to the surfaces of your heart and mind—the roof over your head; clean water to drink and in which to bathe; significant people in your life; your parish; your school; your job.
  • As you savor each one thank Jesus for it.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to savor your gifts more deeply and to notice them as ways Jesus personally loves you.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. It reminds us that all we have is divine gift; and it shapes our hearts to use them more reliably, more prudently and more faithfully.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. We translate the Greek word pistós (πιστός) in the NT variously: faithful (41), trustworthy (13), reliable (1).
  2. The phrase came to John by revelation: Jesus’ self-revelation to John on the island of Patmos. (Revelation 3.14).
  3. Paraphrasing St. Ignatius of Loyola: “The other things on the face of the earth are created for the human beings, to help them in the pursuit of the end [goal] for which they are created [to praise, reverence and serve God our Lord, and by means of doing this to save their souls]” (Spiritual Exercises, 23.2 and [23.1]).
Wiki-image of the Unjust Steward Free Art License. Wiki-image by Harmonia Amanda from atop the Portal Charity, Sagrada Familia CC BY-SA 2.5.

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