Deacon Homily, Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time: September 22, 2019

Homily – Deacon Tony Bellitto

Sun., Sep. 22, 2019  

Twenty Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

First Reading – Amos 8:4-7

Second Reading – 1 Timothy 2:1-8

Gospel – Luke 16:1-13

 

A lot of people really don’t like this Gospel reading. On the surface, it appears that Jesus is praising dishonesty, and they can’t get past that. But he is not. We have to dig below the surface to get at the root of the real meaning of this message. So let me try it this way, and you decide if it makes sense.

 

I have learned a lot from my grandchildren. I have three grandsons, all under two years old. The youngest is only four months. As many of you know who are parents and grandparents, newborns and very small children who cannot yet talk or walk have their own way of communicating what they need. Sometimes they want to be fed; sometimes they need their diaper changed; and sometimes, many times, they just want to be held and rocked in the secure arms of a loving adult. They have a certain way they cry out for each of those needs – one type of cry that says “feed me;” a different cry that says “change me;” and a different cry that says “hold me.”

 

We know this, and somehow they know this too. We human beings, from the moment we are born, are innately transactional in the way we interact with others. Before we can talk or even reason, we know how to get what we need by some form of negotiation.

 

So is the parent training the child, or is the child training the parent?

 

I am amused to think what the conversation might be like between a few such small children in daycare. Little Johnny might say to his little friend – “So, how’s it working out for you? Are your parents getting the hang of this yet?” His friend might answer, “Well, yeah, they’re picking it up. Although my Dad’s a little slow getting me my bottle of milk if he’s watching football, but he’s coming along. I just cry a little louder, and that gets him moving. You know how it is with first-time parents.”

 

So the point is that we know from the youngest age how to get what we need. We figure it out.

 

As a human species, we have figured out many things. We’ve figured out how to make our homes warm in the winter and cool in the summer. We’ve figured out how to communicate across long distances with a handheld electronic device. We’ve figured out how to fly around the world in just a few hours. We figure out whatever we have to do to secure for ourselves the earthly benefits that we need.

 

Something similar is being described in our Gospel reading today. The steward who has been told by his boss that he will be losing his job because of mismanagement of his affairs, has figured out how to secure an opportunity for a new job by doing a favor to those who were indebted to his boss. Those who had their debt reduced would, in turn, be grateful to him and would be inclined to return the favor in the future. That’s what the steward was banking on. Those who had their debt reduced might hire him in a new job, or might at least get him an interview with their Uncle Sol’s jewelry business, for example.

 

We are surprised to see that the steward’s boss actually praises his employee after he’s already decided to fire him. He is not praising his dishonesty, but rather he commends his clever way of thinking, his resourcefulness, and his willingness to think outside the box and to make the effort to figure out how to get what he needs – in this case, new employment so that he won’t become homeless. The steward is not proud of his past actions, because it was, after all, his dishonesty in prior business dealings that got him fired in the first place. So dishonesty is clearly being condemned here, as it was also condemned by the prophet Amos in the first reading. But rather the steward is now focused on making his future better, and that is what is being praised here. He is planning ahead to avoid personal disaster. Although his method is questionable, it is at its core, transactional, and that’s the way all humans innately behave when we are motivated to get what we need.

 

Jesus is pointing out here that if people in this world go to extreme measures, even stealing, to provide for themselves in the future, then how much more should his followers also go to extreme measures to prepare for their eternal future. We all make monetary investments now to provide for our future needs later in this life, but we should also be making spiritual investments now to secure for ourselves a place in the eternal life. In a striking way, Jesus wants his followers to act prudently – to be wiser with the spiritual wealth entrusted to them, than sinners are with their material wealth. This also requires resourcefulness, and foresight, and a willingness to make an extra effort.

 

The point is that it’s far better to place a priority on God, on faith, on worship, and on helping others in need, more so than on the material things of this world – like money, possessions, and career – which will not last. You will never see a U-Haul trailer being pulled behind a hearse in a funeral procession. All your possessions are left behind when you die. Everything we possess in this world does not really belong to us anyway. We only use it for a time. We’re basically all stewards of the one true master, who is God.

 

As Jesus says here, you cannot worship both God and mammon, which is money. Earthly benefits that can be secured with money cannot compare to heavenly benefits that can be secured by having a relationship with God and participating in the faith life of the Church.

 

The Church offers us a way to fulfill our spiritual needs, but it requires our active participation.

Remember the grandchild who cries out “feed me,” or “change me,” or “hold me.” In a similar way, as adults we do the same – our hearts need to be fed, to be changed, and to be held.

 

When the Mass is offered, when we come and participate and receive the Eucharist, as we all are doing here today, then we receive the benefit of God’s offer to feed us with his body and blood.

 

When the Sacrament of Confession is offered, when we come and participate and receive the forgiveness and the absolution from our sins, then we receive the benefit of God’s offer to change us with his healing power.

 

When the Church teaches us true doctrine to guide us, when we accept that teaching and reject our selfish desire to live a different way, apart from that teaching, then we receive the benefit of God’s offer to hold us in the palm of his hand with his truth.

 

When we grow out of childhood and into adulthood, we are no longer dependent on our parents to meet our every need. We become self-reliant and independent, which is good. But the danger in that, in the supernatural realm, is that we mistakenly think we don’t need to rely on God or his Church anymore. That kind of self-reliance and independence is not good.

 

But if we know innately, even from birth, how to get what we need in this life, how much more will eternal rewards await us when we do what God wants us to do, to get what he knows we need in the next life.

 

And so, my brothers and sisters, here is yet again another story from the many in Luke’s Gospel that puts a twist on what we would expect to hear. It’s God again surprising us to grab our attention. He is pointing us toward what matters most. He wants to bless us with his extravagant generosity and abundance. He wants to cancel our debts and lavish real treasure upon us, which cannot compare with the treasures of this world. He wants to lead us into a new and better life, even in the midst of our human failings. How fortunate we are to have a God who loves us that much.

 

May God bless you all.

 

 

Deacon Homily, Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time: August 18, 2019

Deacon Homily, Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time: August 18, 2019

Deacon Chuck Lewis, St. Stanislaus Parish


Our readings for today show a theme that is really uncomfortable.  And that theme is:  Authentically religious people, authentically spiritual people, will almost always be opposed.  The logic behind this is straightforward: we live in a world gone wrong, a world turned upside down; therefore when someone comes speaking the truth to the world, the world thinks that they are dangerous, even crazy.

 

Jesus’ word is meant to burn things up, to reduce things to cinders, to clear things out!  A get-along, go-along attitude is never what Jesus is calling for.  Many of us are uneasy with this idea, but the Bible isn’t.  To truly love is to will the good of the other regardless of the cost.

Therefore, to love necessarily involves passionate opposition to what brings evil in the other.  True love destroys the false forms of order and community that exist today.  True love rejects new definitions of God’s tried and true commands.  True love rejects the arrogance of man redefining marriage and the assault on the sanctity of human life.   So, if we are feeling opposed, there is a good reason.  If we are not feeling opposed, however, maybe we need to pray about whether or not we are too comfortable, too get-along, go-along.

Several years ago, there was a news report of a student who came forward after a Mass at his university and complained because he felt “victimized” by a homily on 1 Corinthians 13.

It appears the young scholar felt offended because a homily on love made him feel bad about himself for not showing love.  In his mind, the homilist was wrong for making him and his peers, feel uncomfortable.

I’m not making this up.  Our culture has actually led some of our children to be this self-absorbed and narcissistic.  Any time their feelings are hurt, they are victims.  Anyone who dares challenge them and, thus, make them “feel bad” about themselves, is labeled a bigot or a hater.

The simple truth is the feeling of discomfort one has after listening to the readings today is because we have a conscience.   An examination of conscience is supposed to help us see ourselves as Jesus sees us.  And, that can make us feel bad.  A good examination of conscience is supposed to make us feel guilty and motivate us to become better.

One of the goals of a good homily is to help us see our sins – not coddle us in our own selfishness and spiritual mediocrity.  Jesus didn’t die on a cross so we could remain mediocre.  The primary mission of the Church and the Christian faith is our confession and redemption – not our self-absorption and comfort.

If we want our Church to tell us we are victims rather than tell us that we need virtue, our view of the Church is not the Church Jesus founded.

If we want to complain about a challenging homily that makes us feel less loving for not showing love like that young scholar, we can be assured our complaint is counter to the will of Christ.

If we are more interested in playing the “hater” card than we are in confessing our own hate; if we want to arrogantly lecture, rather than humbly learn; if we don’t want to feel guilt in our souls when we are guilty of sin; if we want to be coddled rather than confronted, there are far too many religions in the world and expressions of Christianity that will accommodate us but being a true follower of Jesus Christ and His true Church isn’t one of them.

Jesus taught us to be selfless rather than self-centered.  Being selfless is absolutely necessary in order for us to do our part in being opposed in this world.

As followers of Jesus, we believe that life is not about “us” it is about others and the bad feelings we have while studying our faith, examining our consciences or while listening to a homily are actually good for us.  Some would say, we have good guilt or constructive guilt.  And a sure fire way to alleviate our guilt is to repent of everything that’s wrong with us rather than to blame others for everything that is wrong with them.

Today, more than ever, who would argue with: what we need more of, Are bold Christians who are comfortable with being uncomfortable;

Christians who have the guts to cast fire on the world;

Christians who aren’t afraid to be opposed by the culture;

Christians who have the courage to truthfully examine their own lives;

Christians who work on their own faults before condemning the faults of others;

Christians whose lives are lived with some spiritual consequence;

And Christians whose commitment to Christ comes first and foremost above all else.

Friends, our readings today should make us feel uncomfortable.  Let us pray for the grace to be the light in the darkness our world so desperately needs.