September 22, 2019 — Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
After today’s readings, we can’t say we have not been warned about the dangers of mixed up priorities. God’s Word is so very clear today on the necessity of putting Him first in all areas of our lives.
We see this in the First Reading from Amos. The Lord has harsh words for those who would take advantage of the poor and whose priorities are not aligned with God’s. “Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land.. Never will I forget a thing they have done!” Lest we think we are off the hook as long as we are not cheating the poor outright, the Lord condemns just as strongly those who are anxious for the Sabbath to be over so they can go back to the more “important” matters of business and the like. Even our thought life is important to the Lord! Perhaps we are not off the hook after all.
In the Second Reading from St. Paul’s letter to Timothy, Paul gives us the antidote to the self-centeredness condemned in our First Reading. The antidote, of course, is to imitate Christ. “There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all.” Rather than thinking of Himself and how to “get ahead,” Christ gave Himself away — completely — for our sake. That is how we are to live. How to better serve God and give ourselves to others are the thoughts that should preoccupy our minds.
In our Gospel passage from Luke, the Lord shows us how to bridge the gap between worldly thinking and priorities and eternal thinking and priorities. Jesus tells the parable of the corrupt but clever steward who is about to get fired when the master discovers the steward has been squandering his property. Realizing his imminent unemployed status, the clever steward reaches out to the various debtors of his master to wheel and deal with them, making friends who would look out for him when he became jobless.
We do have to give this man credit for his ingenuity. And, in fact, Jesus does just that saying, “The master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently. For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.”
What do we learn from this curious parable to help us avoid the worldly thinking condemned in our First Reading and give ourselves away as Jesus did as described in our Second Reading? We know this “bad steward” was clever and energetic. He put thought, prudence, and creativity into the plans he made for his self-serving ends and carried out his plans with great success.
What if we put that kind of effort into our own tasks as good stewards of all God’s gifts to us? Into our ministries, into the ways we could make more time for prayer as individuals, as couples, as families and as a parish? What if we got as creative as the “bad steward” in the use of our finances so that we could give more generously to the poor and to the advancement of God’s kingdom on the earth? That’s our lesson and our challenge.
We are called to be forward-thinking, savvy, good stewards of all that our good God has given us. Let’s start thinking that way!