Fr. Paul's Homily
What are the dimensions of a 2X4? Anyone who has been around lumber knows that a 2X4 is not 2 inches by 4 inches! It is actually, 1 ½ inches by 3 ½ inches. This adjustment continues through all lumber that is sold. So, a 2X10 is actually 1 ½ inches by 9 ½ inches! And so on!
While this example would not be considered cheating today, it does point to how we can start adjusting things, searching for more profit with less expense. Dishonesty can creep into our effors. Let’s look at the readings today, especially the readings from Amos in the Old Testament and St. Luke in the New Testament.
Amos was called from his normal life as a farmer and shepherd to travel north, 80 miles, to the northern kingdom of Israel to be a prophet. And what does he tell them? It seems they have become corrupt in their handling of their wealth. Wealth had become their total focus, and loyalty to God has become an annoyance. They saw the observation of the Sabbath, not as a holyday for praising the Lord God, but as an interference with their ability to make money. They just want the Sabbath to be over so that they could go back to getting rich.
And how are they getting rich…by cheating those with less power. So they adjust the scales upon which everything will be weighed…just a little cheating! They would pay the lowest possible amount to the poor (“We will buy the lowly for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals.”). They used their power as a way of getting more from those who already had very little.
What is it about making money that can cause us to lower our values and cheat people? Jesus gives us a hint when he says in the Gospel, “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 God and money.” So, even in Jesus’ day, money could become a god that demanded full allegiance. Money can be addictive, absorbing our energy, time and desire. This leaves little room for God.
How do we live in the world of money, which we must, and not allow it to dominate our hearts and control our values?
First, we need to know where our deepest loyalty is. If we put God first, our lives will focus upon the value of relationships and righteousness. If we put money first, we will focus upon always accumulating more, more, more, and sometimes this will push us to cheat a little and blur the lines between truth and fiction.
Is God first in my life, even over family? This is a difficult question, even for the best of us since we often have a deep, fierce loyalty to our family. Does love of God put me against my family?
A number of years ago I spoke with my sister-in-law, Charlotte, about a homily she had heard at the wedding. The minister had said to the bride, “Mary, you will be second in Bill’s heart, God will be first. But you will receive more love by being second than if you were first.” You will receive more love from another when God is first in the person’s heart. Why? Because God is love Himself and he is always pushing us to step back into relationships with love and understand. God is our cheerleader for love…nudging, encouraging, challenging us to care for another person. Remember, St. John said, “God is love and he who abides in love, abides in God and God in him.” I call all of us to put God first and allow God to bless all our relationships. God does not pull us away from our families, he pushes us back into them when we want to run away.
I would like to return to our Gospel for a moment. Jesus gives a rather strange parable of a dishonest manager who has been told by the owner that he is to be fired. Not knowing what he will do, he proceeds to call in all who have a debt to his master and he reduces what they owe! A 100 barrel of oil debt becomes 50 barrels! A 100 bushes of wheat becomes 80 bushes and so forth. In doing this, he is hoping that when he is fired, these debtors will be gracious and open their doors to him. Brilliant!! What is more amazing is that when the owner discovers what the manager has done, he is not furious but commends the 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 the light.”
Why does the owner praise this dishonest servant who has cheated him? What is Jesus saying to us? Maybe Jesus is praising the man, not because of his dishonesty, but because he DID something! The man took action to deal with his situation, to find a solution.
Maybe Jesus is calling us to DO something, to make a difference in our lives and the lives of others. Sometimes we can think something through in our minds, over and over again, but we need to act. We need to take a step forward.
This past week our Adult Formation Committee had a gathering to discuss our responsibility to all of creation as put forward by Pope Francis in the encyclical, Laudato Si. Our Holy Father stresses that there is an urgent need to face the ecological issues of our planet if we are to give hope to the next generation after us. We must reduce overuse of energy and take serious steps to develop renewal energy sources. We need to reduce our “through away” attitude and share what we have. The Holy Father’s words are sober, yet hopeful.
Can we reduce our energy usage? One of our presenters, a catholic elementary school teacher, was able to reduce their school electrical bill by 25% by simply turning off the lights in classrooms when no one was in the room! Can we do the same at home? Can I use energy efficient bulbs? On this campus we have recycle bins available for paper, clothes and shoes, and for cans, cardboard, metal, plastic and glass. Sometimes, we just need to take a step.
Are you familiar with the expression, “work like the dickens”? “Dickens” is an archaic way of saying, “the devil.” The idea is that the devil is always at work in the world seeking to tempt people and to destroy them. The devil never lets up. What Jesus may have been saying with this colorful little parable is that he needs people who are willing to do something to bring about his kingdom of peace, justice and love.. He needs people who work like the devil to bring this kingdom.
So, Jesus is offering us several goals today. He is confronting us on the temptation to allow money to become our primary goal in life, rather than allowing God to be our primary goal. When God is first, our lives will be filled with greater integrity and greater love for others.
And maybe Jesus is calling us to step out and do something valuable. The dishonest manager was praised for doing something and not just complaining. Let us step forward and do something, whether it relates to the preservation of our planet, or the service of others…let’s do something.