Deacon Jim Koger preached at all Masses.
Mark Twain once said: “when the end of the world comes. . . I want to be in Kentucky. They’re always about 20 years behind everyone else.”
7 year old Billy said: “When they announce there are only four days left until the end of the world. . . that’s when I will get better at subtraction.”
When will the end of the world happen? This is a question people have been trying to answer for a long, LONG, time.
The Romans thought it would be in 634 B.C. – based on a number that 12 eagles had revealed to their legendary founders Romulus and Remus.
St. Hippolytus of Rome said it would be in the year 500 A.D. ---- based on a formula he derived from the dimensions of Noah’s Ark.
Pope Sylvester II said the end of the world would be 1000 A.D. at the close of the millennium – which caused riots in the streets of Rome and a flocking of people to Jerusalem.
Martin Luther thought the end was coming no later than 1600. And remember when everyone thought the Y2K bug would crash computers and cause catastrophes that would destroy the technological world as we know it?
Norse mythology, Orthodox Judaism and of course we followers of Jesus Christ – know that the end is coming – we just don’t know when. . .
It’s the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary time, and so the Church is coming to the end of our liturgical year. Next weekend is the Solemnity of Christ the King, which finishes off the Sundays of Ordinary Time, and then it’s on to the new liturgical year with Advent.
And so with two weeks to go – the Church is using this end of the year theme to mirror a greater mystery: the end of history.
This sort of thing can be interesting to us. Movies are made about catastrophes and natural disasters and the end of the world. We usually think about angels and judgment and all the things that come with it. The big question is the same one that it was in Jesus’ time ---and before and ever since --- WHEN? When will the end come?
Today, Jesus gives us a few signs that will come before the end – saying there will be wars and famine.
If we would read the Book of Revelation we would hear of the Anti-Christ first making an appearance before the end –
And the prophet Malachi told us --- the day will come like a blazing oven. . .
All are to be signs of the end times. . .
But here is the thing – we have had wars and famines for the two thousand years since Christ walked the earth. There always seem to be people in every generation who are blatantly labeled the anti-Christ – Hitler, Stalin, Osama-bin Laden to name a few. And every single summer in Kansas City feels like a blazing oven. . . So what are the definitive signs???
What I would suggest is that we’re missing the point if we are seeking a sign or a date for the end times. . . Much like the concept of heaven we dealt with last week ----- the second coming of Jesus, the end of the world – transcends the logic of human minds and history. We DON’T know when, how, or why Jesus will come. We can’t figure out a date, nor should we.
The point is that Jesus WILL come again ---- and we need to be prepared. NOT by building bomb shelters or stocking up on bread and milk – but preparing with---- hopeful anticipation.
The Greek word Parousia, which Shelly had a hard time saying --- is used to describe the end times. The word literally means the welcoming ----- or the grand arrival --- of an important guest. . .
This is how we are called to prepare for the end --- with hope and open arms, hearts, lives and minds --- to welcome the coming of our special guest – Jesus Christ.
I think maybe a sports analogy might work here. There is some tendency in our culture to avoid thinking of the last things – the great truths like death and judgment and heaven and hell. We are simply told to enjoy ourselves while we can – and not to worry about the big picture. But really, that view of the end isn’t very accurate and certainly won’t be good for us. . .
It would be like telling an athlete to just enjoy their time playing in the game – and don’t get too worried about the outcome of the game -----
until it is the last inning, the last quarter, or the last set ---
Any good athlete enjoys the game by playing hard and doing their best to win the game. They know that the 4th quarter or the 9th inning is right around the corner, the clock is ticking -----
and the time will soon run out. And when it does, and they make their way back to the locker room – they all want two things:
Hopefully that they won the game – AND that they pushed themselves as hard as possible to play their part in order to win.
The lesson of the Gospel is similar. Yes, our time on earth will come to an end someday. The clock is ticking, and the 4th quarter is on the way.
But there is also a big difference – an athlete can give his or her all and still lose. They can be satisfied with their performance, but still disappointed with the outcome.
But as Christians – we have to play to win. If we as Christians give our all-- in the time we have, spending our lives striving to be more like Christ every day --- in spite of hardships, sufferings, persecutions, opposition, and enemies – then victory is assured – a crown of righteousness will be awaiting us in heaven.
Today as we gather for Mass, we are mindful that the end times will come. But we come to the Eucharist striving to give our all – to prepare, to hope, and to imitate the love of Christ each and every day. As we receive the Eucharist, the foretaste of the heavenly banquet, let us receive what we need to be holy in this life – so that we can live with God forever in the life to come.
The late Reverend Billy Graham once told of a time early in his ministry when he arrived in a small town to preach one of his crusades.
Wanting to mail a letter, he saw a young boy and asked him how to get to the post office.
When the boy had given him directions – Dr. Graham thanked him and said: “If you come to the Baptist Church tonight – you can hear me telling everyone how to get to heaven.”
“No thank you, I don’t think I will be there,” said the boy. When Graham asked him why not – they boy said, “Mister you don’t even know how to get to the post office – how are you going to tell us how to get to heaven??”
We have just a few more weeks of reading St. Luke’s Gospel before we begin a new liturgical year and the reading of St. Matthew’s Gospel. . . By this point in Luke’s Gospel – Jesus had been preaching, teaching, and healing – all to let people how to get to heaven. And so he had many steadfast friends who were faithfully following him ----- and many zealous enemies --- wanting to shut him down.
If these nay-sayers could confuse Jesus – cause him to fumble for an answer – his appeal would be dimmed in the eyes of some, or so they thought. Then this could start a counter-movement in which there could be much questioning, and mumbling, and discontent.
Then, when the time came to cart Jesus off for a final end to his life and teaching --- maybe they would be rather thankful – rather than upset. . . or so they thought.
The Sadduces were part of this crowd who wanted to discredit Jesus and his teaching. They were Sad-you-see ----- because they did not believe in the Resurrection. They said there was no firm basis for life after death in the first five books of their Scriptures – known by us as the Pentetuch – and to them, as the Books of Moses or the Hebrew Torah.
They wanted to show that this man who some believed came down from heaven – had no idea what heaven was like –and they thought they had the perfect question to make him stumble. . .
It was an absurd question they posed that assumes seven cases of marriage: if a man’s brother dies childless – he must marry the widow according to the Law of Moses found in the Book of Deuteronomy (25:5-6). A single bride is passed to seven brothers in succession --- SO, whose wife will she be in heaven?
Whenever I hear this question of the Sadducees – there is a side of me that wants to say, “Good Question” –
not because I don’t believe in life after death, which was the Sadducees problem – but because I want some insight as to what life in heaven is going to be like. So it’s more “good question” – give us an idea Jesus, so we have something to look forward to – something to strive for. . .
But then I think maybe that’s getting too caught up in the physical facts – much like the questions – where heaven will be, what we will do all the time, who will be there – and who will not --- good questions – but do they sidetrack us from what the meaning of the resurrection and the life to come is all about???
We do like to think about our own life after death – and the fact that Jesus’ resurrection guarantees us that life – BUT the resurrection is about so much more than what is going to happen to MY body and to ME after I’M dead and gone. . .
Naturally I am quite interested in what happens to me after I’m dead – but I’m not the only fish in the sea – and the sea is so much more than just the sum total of all the fish. . .
The belief in the resurrection --- is NOT just that Jesus is alive today – and I can have a personal relationship with Him --- though this is true.
It’s NOT just that there is a life after death and I can enjoy it when I get there --- though this is true also.
But the belief in the resurrection is also that there is a whole new world, a new creation, a new order of being – that has come into existence. And that you and I and everyone else is going to get caught up in that new creation.
God has made a way through death and out the other side – and the world as we know it --- the world of beautiful autumns and chilly morning, as well as shootings and terrorism and addictions --- and 24 hour days and 7 day weeks --- the world in which people are married and given in marriage –
this world, itself, in a through the process of resurrection – is being put to death and brought through the grave---- to new life on the other side.
The whole point of the resurrection when seen from this perspective – is that the risen Christ is the beginning of God’s new world order, “the first fruits of those who slept.”
Jesus Christ is the guarantee that love is stronger than death, that God who made the world and has grieved over its fall into sin and corruption – has not left us to stew in our own demise – but has entered into the world --- has taken its pain and shame and death unto Himself – and broken through to a new creation on the other side –
which will be absolutely nothing like we know on this side -- -a place where there is no more suffering – no more tears, no more sadeness.
What a good question the Saducees ask. And what a good answer Jesus gives them. And while many of us don’t want to find our way to the post office these days – especially in North Kansas City --- I hope most of us long to get caught up in the new creation of heaven --- and we do that, as St. Paul tells us – by directing our hearts to the love of God and to the endurance of Christ.
A good weekend for a story: What’s Up, Zak (or Up a Tree) the Story of Zacchaeus. By Paul Dallgas-Frey
There are two things you should know about Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was a little Man. And Zacchaeus was a rich man. And nobody like him very much. Okay, that’s three things!
Nobody liked Zacchaeus. . . mostly because he got rich taking money from other people and giving it to the Romans.
Nobody liked the Romans much either. That was because they came in from another country like a bunch of bullies. They came with all their soldiers and swords and spears and stuff and made people do things they did not want to do – LIKE GIVE THEM MONEY!
That’s what Zacchaeus did. He collected money for the Romans. They called it “collecting taxes.” Some of the money he gave to the Romans – but lots of it he kept for himself. And that’s how he got rich!
Zacchaeus was a very rich man. And Zacchaeus was a little man. . . without a lot of friends.
Zacchaeus lived in a town called Jericho a long time ago. You might remember Jericho – if you heard the story about the walls that came tumbling down when the trumpets blew. But that was way before Zacchaeus time.
One bright, sunny day – Zacchaeus looked down the dirt road that came into Jericho and he saw a crowd of people coming his way.
Back then, everybody was talking about a guy named Jesus. Everywhere Jesus went, people who were blind could see again. Jesus was a pretty amazing guy! And everybody wanted to see just who this Jesus guy was – including Zacchaeus!
The only trouble was, everywhere Jesus went there were always crowds of people all around him – and remember, Zacchaeus was a little man. He know that he would never be able to see over a great crowd of people.
Zacchaeus ran up to the edge of the crowd and stood on his tiptoes to see what the big deal was.
But all he could see were the backs of people’s heads.
He tried jumping up and down. He bounced from one side and then to the other. But still he could not see.
But then, on one lucky bounce, he saw the man at the center of the crowd and it was Jesus!
Zacchaeus tried to push his way through the crowd, but everyone wanted to see Jesus, and they would not let him through.
What could he do? He wanted to see Jesus too!
Then Zacchaeus turned around and saw a sycamore tree growing right beside the road Jesus was walking along.
Zacchaeus had an idea!
He ran on ahead and climbed up the Sycamore tree. He did not care if he looked silly or not. He wanted to see Jesus!
Sure enough, Jesus stopped right under the sycamore tree. He looked up, and there was Zacchaeus peeking through the branches.
“Zacchaeus!” Jesus said to him, “Hurry down from there! I must stay at your house today!”
“How does he know my name??!” Zacchaeus thought to himself. “But he does! He knows my name! And he wants to come and stay at my house!”
Zacchaeus flew down that tree quicker than you could say, “Zacchaeus, Zacchaeus – sitting in a tree.”
When his feet hit the ground, he was so happy he nearly did a little dance! But that’s just what Jesus does to people. Jesus laughed and slapped his arm around Zacchaeus’s shoulder, and together they started off towards Zacchaeus’s house.
But the people in the crowd were not so happy.
They had spent all day in the hot sun following Jesus, and now he was going to stay at the house of Zacchaeus – a rich, cheating tax collector???!!
They began to grumble about Zacchaeus. . .
“This man is a sinner!” one woman said.
“He cheats and steals from his own people!” said an old man.
“He isn’t good enough for Jesus to come and stay at his house!”
Zacchaeus heard what the people were saying about him, and he must have known that they were right. So he said, “Listen! I will give half of everything I have to the poor! And if I cheated anyone, I will pay them back four time as much!”
Jesus was going to be a guest at his house. And what do you do when you are expecting company? You clean things up!
That’s what Zacchaeus did. Only he cleaned himself up on the inside first. Zacchaeus wanted to make things right for Jesus. He was so happy that Jesus wanted to come to his house, he wanted to make Jesus happy too.
And Jesus was happy!
Jesus said to Zacchaeus, “Today salvation has come to this house! Your life was all wrong – but now it is right. You were lost, but now you have been saved! That’s why I am here. I came to find and save the lost!
Zacchaeus was a little man – but now he felt ten feet tall!
And you know what??
Jesus know you too! Jesus knows you by name, just like he knew Zacchaeus.
He wants to come and tell you how much he loves you.
Jesus wants to tell you the good news of his home in heaven. He wants to laugh with you and cry with you no matter what.
But Jesus can’t exactly walk up to your front door and ring the bell. It would take a LONG time for Jesus to walk up to every house in the world!
You’d be all old and wrinkly by the time he finally got to yours. . . and he wouldn’t be able to stay very long. There are a LOT of houses in the world to get to!
Back when Jesus stayed at Zacchaeus’s house, all the other people grumbled because each of them wanted Jesus to stay at THEIR house. But when Jesus was on earth, he just could not stay at every house every night. . .
That’s why Jesus went to heaven. Jesus went to heaven so he could send his Spirit to live with each of us – all at the same time!
Of course you can’t see his Spirit. Btu you can’t see love either. You can’t hear it or smell it or touch it. But you know when love is there. That’s how it is with Jesus. When Jesus comes to you, you can’t see him, or hear him, or touch him. But you know that he is there.
Jesus wants to come to your house today! All you have to do is invite him in!
For God rejoices when the lost is found –
Every wayward soul that is heaven-bound.
Even all of those who stay on the ground-
God rejoices when the lost is found!
In 1989, the Empress Zita, the last empress of the Austrian empire and Queen of Hungary – was buried in Vienna.
She had been crowned in 1916, but was exiled in 1918, never to return to her beloved Austria. She never, however, renounced her crown.
When she died, a great imperial funeral was held in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. Assembled inside that day were leaders from around the world, including a personal representative of Pope John Paul II. The Vienna Boys Choir, a full orchestra and a chorus were all ready to sing and play for the Mass.
Outside the cathedral, in the plaza, old men wore their Austrian military uniforms, and when the funeral procession drew near – there was spontaneous singing of the Austrian imperial anthem. Pall bearers carried the body of the empress to the closed doors of the cathedral and the leader of the procession knocked on the door three times – according to an ancient ritual.
The rector of the cathedral came to the door, opened it just enough to look out, and asked, “Who desires entry?”
The leader of the procession answered: “The empress Zita, Empress of all Austria and Queen of Hungary.”
The rector replied, “I do not know this person.” And he closed the door.
Continuing the tradition -- a second time the knock came on the door. The rector repeated his question – and the leader answered in the same manner: “The Empress Zita, Empress of all Austria and Queen of Hungary.” The rector once again said he did not know this person, and closed the door.
A third time – the knock came. Once again the rector asked, “Who desires entry?” And this time the answer came: “Our sinful, mortal sister, Zita, seeking God’s mercy” And with this, the doors were opened wide and the glorious music began. . . >>
for in the eyes of Austrians, Zita was an “uppercase” empress – but in the eyes of God, she was a “lowercase” saint – still in need or God’s mercy.
That’s what you and I are – we’re “lowercase” saints in need of God’s mercy – here to honor the “uppercase” saints who were humble enough throughout their lives to know – they were always in need of God’s mercy – and yes, could move mountains if they had faith the size of a mustard seed.
The Biblical word for saint – simply means those who are set apart --- much like St. Paul wrote his letters to the believers in Roman, and Corinth, and Thessalonica – calling them saints. . .
Saints are those who believe in --- and have received the loving grace of God in Christ and seek to serve the kingdom of God as faithful disciples. In order to do that, they align themselves with the teaching of Christ and are his representatives in the world. As such – they, WE – are set apart.
The Gospel today, the Beatitudes, is part of Jesus longer - -Sermon on the Mount – where he tries to teach us the way in which we need to live our lives differently – how we need to align ourselves with the teaching of Christ ---- because we are set apart. . .
Hear these Beatitudes from Christian author and pastor, Eugene Peterson’s perspective – to hear how we are supposed to live differently. . . set ourselves apart --- because we believe and have received the loving grace of God in Christ - - -
You’re blessed---- when you are at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and more of God’s ways and not your own.
You’re blessed ---- when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the one most dear to you.
You’re blessed---- when you’re content with just who you are – no more, nor less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything --- that cannot be bought.
You’re blessed ---- when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. For God’s food and drink in the Eucharist is the best meal you will ever eat.
You’re blessed ---- when you care about something and someone – other than yourself. At the moment of being full of care -- you find yourselves--- cared for.
You’re blessed ---- when you get your inside world – your mind and your heart – put right Then you can see God more easily in the outside world.
You’re blessed--- when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
You’re blessed ---- when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
Not only that – but count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit God. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when this happens – give a cheer even – for though they don’t like it, God does. >>
And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. For God’s prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
Saints, those we honor today, and we saints in the making – define themselves by ordinary living in extraordinary ways. We honor today our mortal brothers and sisters who have gone before us who made God’s kingdom more present by their acts of mercy, justice, love, and self-sacrifice. The world was blessed by their attitudes – and God now blesses them with eternal life. And with God’s grace, we hope to follow in their footsteps.
You and I won’t wear a crown like Zita. The Vienna Boys Choir probably won’t be singing at our funerals. But – like the capital S saints who have gone before us – we will one day return to our true home. We will receive a heavenly crown of righteousness, and the angels will sing when the gates of heaven swing open for us.
Since I don’t want to let one of my mentors down: Fr. Jim Healy – who begins every homily with a joke ---- or allow you to be bored by my preaching – I thought I would begin with a joke today – so I don’t know if it’s a good one, but it is my best joke about gratitude. . .
So a large dog walks into a butcher shop carrying a purse in its mouth. He puts the purse down and sits in front of the meat counter.
“What is it, boy?” the butcher jokingly asks. “Want to buy some meat?” “Woof!” barks the dog.
“Hmmm,” says the butcher. “What kind? Chicken, pork, steak. . .” “Woof!” interrupts the dog.”
“Okay,” says the butcher. “And how much steak? Half a pound, one pound. . .” “Woof!” said the dog.
Amazed the butcher wraps up the pound of steak and finds just enough money in the purse to pay for it.
As the dog leaves, the butcher decides to follow out of curiosity. The dog enters an apartment building, climbs to the third floor – and begins scratching at the door.
Immediately, a man swings open the door and starts shouting at the dog for scratching at the door.
“Hey, wait a minute,” yells the butcher. “Quit shouting at the most intelligent dog I have ever seen.”
“Intelligent?” says the man. “Intelligent? Why this is the third time I’ve sent him out this week to get something --- and he’s gone off forgetting his key!!!!”
Some people are just incapable of being grateful – even if they have an intelligent dog who occasionally forgets ---- or even if they have been cured from the most dreaded disease known in their day: leprosy.
Rightly Jesus asks: “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?”
Certainly they noticed they had been cleansed. . . . weren’t they grateful ??? –
or had they been separated from their families and friends and society for so long because of their leprosy – they have forgotten how to be grateful??
Just in case we have forgotten how to be grateful – I will finish with a story. . .
It’s Great to be Grateful! By Michaelene Mundy.
What it means to be grateful. Being grateful means you notice something good that has happened or is happening in your life. It might be something that just happened like someone fixing your favorite meal -- even when it’s not your birthday.
When you take time to be thankful, ordinary things can become special: a cup cake tastes better if you slow down and enjoy it. Remembering that someone took the time to bake them is another reason to be grateful.
Why be thankful? It is hard to be thankful and sad – or angry – at the same time. Being thankful can make you feel good. Paying attention to the little things we have and the little things that happen can turn a boring day into a special day or an ordinary meal into a feast.
It is important to let others know when you are thankful for something they did for you or made happen. Even GOD likes to know when you are thankful. At the end of the day you can thank God for your family, your friends, or for things like snow that you had fun in.
Being thankful is a gift. You “honor” or “show your respect” for someone when you notice them or what they do for you and then show or tell them that you are thankful with a smile or a hug and a “Thank you.”
We can also hurt people’s feelings by NOT being thankful. Did you ever do something special for someone – like holding the door open or carrying something for someone – and they didn’t even notice? Did it make you feel sad?
It feels good when others say “Thanks” to you. It is like someone giving a gift to you.
How to be Thankful. You can show your thanks with a note, an e-mail, or a text. You can even stop the fun thing you are doing for a moment and whisper a thanks to God in prayer.
It isn’t hard to be thankful. It does take a little time, though. It is a wonderful habit to notice when things are good and quietly say to yourself the feelings that are in your heart.
To whom should we give thanks? You can thank your mom and dad for the gift of your life. But you don’t have to wait until your birthday. You can thank God for all the good people you have in your life: grandparents, friends, teachers, neighbors.
It is nice to show your thanks to people who take care of you or do little things for you. A friend who pushes you on a swing, your grandparent who takes care of you when your parents are gone,
your teachers who help you learn new things, the librarian who helps you find a good book, are all people to whom we can say “thank you.”
There are so many people to thank!
What to be thankful for? There are a million things to be grateful for. Things like your family and good meals to eat together. You can be thankful for a summer breeze on a hot day or for the toys and games you have.
But your probably don’t really need more and more stuff. Instead, you can be thankful for the things and people you have in your life.
And you can be thankful that you have people who love you and watch over you. These are the best gifts and blessings in your life.
Being thankful is a choice. Being thankful sometimes just happens and is easy to show. When someone surprises you with something nice, you may smile or jump up and down or give a big hug or say, “Thanks!”
But sometimes, showing gratitude and saying “thanks” is a choice. It is something you can decide to do. Since you want to let people know you appreciate them – and what they do for you --- you just need to make showing gratitude a habit.
You may hear people say, “thank goodness we have air conditioning,” or, “thank heavens I passed that test,” or “Thank God no one got hurt.” Being thankful is such a habit with some people that they often don’t even realize they are doing it.
Getting into the habit of saying “Thank you” to God is a very good thing. And it is also a very good habit to say “thanks” for all the good and kind things people do.
When you notice someone being kind, tell them so. It can make their whole day special to know that you noticed.
Every day can be thanksgiving day! Have you ever heard someone say, “count your blessings?” People often say this when bad things happen. By looking at all the good things in your life, it makes it easier to deal with bad things that happen sometimes.
At night, before you sleep, when all is quiet (except for maybe your little brother or sister or puppy!) remember to tell God how thankful you are. . . thankful for all that ways, all that is, and all that will be. AMEN!
My name is Dives – or at least that’s the name people have given me over the years --- because notice I am not named in the parable that Jesus tells today – more about that later.
They call me Dives because it is simply the Latin word for RICH – and yes, I was that – filthy rich – without a care in the world ---- as long as we are only talking money.
You may remember hearing a story about my brother, Ashar, in the Gospel a few weeks ago. He was the one who built bigger barns to store up all his wealth. . . he could have shared it, but did not – let’s just say some things run in families. . .
They call him Ashar because it is the Hebrew word for “to be rich and wealthy” or simply, “to be flat out prosperous.”
We were obviously cut from the same mold: all my brothers and I -- were wealthy, prosperous, and stuck on ourselves – because we would never think of sharing any of our wealth with those less fortunate --- let them fend for themselves. . . and that is the thinking that landed me in a very unpleasant place after my life on earth – but let’s get back to Jesus’ parable. . .
You may not realize this, but in all the 30 or so stories or parables Jesus tells in the Gospel – only once does he call someone by name –
and that is Lazarus. Usually Jesus says things like, “ a rich man had a steward,” or “what man among you having a hundred sheep,” or “what woman having ten coins and losing one” or “when you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet.” -- Parables you have heard in recent weeks – and not one name used among them.
But Jesus calls this poor man lying at my door by name – Lazarus – perhaps just to indicate that learning a person’s name – is the first way to begin to break down the barriers that separate people. . . Lazarus --- which in Hebrew means “God has helped” -- a name I don’t use until after both of us are dead and gone –
and only then because I want Lazarus to do something for me – to be my servant – to dip the tip of his finger in water to cool my tongue.
Now when both of us were alive – I had no use for him, and therefore walked by him day after day – not even noticing him – and so certainly would have no need to know his name.
If only I could have been a bit more like this man Jesus in my life – but I certainly had no use for the values he was proclaiming: “to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, and to let the oppressed go free.” He obviously did not know the poor, the captives, and the oppressed were part of the problem in our society –
if not the whole problem of our society: out of sight, out of mind is my philosophy. . . or I should say WAS my philosophy – if only I could go back and relive my life. . . things would be a bit different. . .
And that’s why I want Abraham, our father in faith, yes, I was a Jew – just not a very good one --- I want Abraham to let Lazarus go back to warn my brothers to put the poor, the captive, and the oppressed into their sight and into their minds – and to reach out to them in compassion.
But Abraham simply says, “they have Moses and the prophets – let them listen to them.”
If only I had listened. . .
For Moses, who we Jews thought wrote the Pentateuch, or the first five books of the Bible, said in the book of Deuteronomy, “treat the poor with open hands, rather than with tight fists.” My fist could not have been more tight, holding on even to the very first denarius I had ever earned – it was framed and hanging in my office!
Or in Leviticus, Moses said, “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your fields --- leave it for the poor and the foreigner.” I think my brother with the bigger barns needed to pay attention to that one, and maybe he would not have needed his bigger barns!
Or, again, in Deuteronomy, “there should be no poor among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, God will richly bless you.” God did indeed bless me – but I kept it all to myself, failing to be a good steward:
one who realized everything I had was a gift from God – and I was called to be a responsible care-taker and dispenser of God’s property. Oh, if only I had listened and lived my life differently!
The prophets are the ones who really cut loose on the care and concern for the poor. . .
Like the Prophet Amos you have been hearing from – who told you last week that God is not happy with those who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land.
And who continues this week – woe to you complacent [which means those who are marked by self-satisfaction and who are unconcerned about anyone or anything except maybe where the next banquet is to be held!] Woe to you complacent – you shall be the 1st to go into exile!
I guess it is safe to say among my brothers – I am the first to go into exile: into this netherworld where I am in torment. . .
It was all right there, laid out in our sacred texts – to watch out not only for yourself, but for those who were less fortunate than you are. If only I had listened. If only I could have thought of someone besides myself. If only I could do it all over again and be a good steward of all that I was blessed with – I would not be begging for that drop of water to cool my tongue!
So, I am Dives – the rich man dressed in purple garments and fine linen ---- and I guess the point I really want to make – is for you to pay attention to how you live --- learn from my mistakes. Live your life with gentleness, with graciousness, and with generosity.
Have concern for the poor, the captives, the oppressed – and don’t forget about the widow, the orphan, and foreigner. . .
And be sure to take to heart the words this Jesus says elsewhere in the Gospel and repeats often with the hope that it will sink in:
Where your treasure is, there your heart shall be.
All that you possess will never set you free.
Seek the things that last – come and learn from me:
Where your treasure is your heart shall be.
The author, C.S. Lewis writes in his book, Mere Christianity,:
“Every faculty you have: your power of thinking or moving your limbs from moment to moment – is given to you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service – you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already.”
Jesus talked a lot about stewardship. He used parables, such as the one he tells today, to teach deeper principles about discipleship --- and he reminds his followers that our hearts --- follow our treasure. . .
In Jesus time, the steward was the manager of a wealthy person’s household. The steward was not the owner of the assets: the house, the servants, the barns and the things they stored – but was to be a responsible care-taker and dispenser of the owner’s property: he was the one that kept things running.
So the steward, a good steward, was someone who had to be trustworthy, honest, loyal, hardworking, and respected and respectful. They needed to be able to view each thing - and especially each person – as a precious and vital resource of great potential for the owner.
The parable Jesus tells today is of a steward who failed miserably at being good at what he was called to do. This steward was reported to his master for SQUANDERING his property.
SQUANDER means to waste something – especially money or time – in a reckless and foolish manner. Synonyms include: misspend, misuse, throw away, dissipate, fritter away, and make poor use of ------------ not someone, I think, any of us ------would want handling our assets.
And so the master calls him on the carpet – and tells him he can no longer be his steward.
But then - -something happens. This steward becomes very cunning in making sure he has friends after his dismissal.
He becomes very creative in doctoring the invoices and cutting deals – and regains so much of the owners loans – that his master “commends him for acting prudently.” Meaning he praised him formally or officially for acting with or showing care and thought for the future --------- but it doesn’t mean he got his job back!
Whenever I hear this parable and think about it and pray about it --- I always wonder – why did the steward not just do the job he was entrusted with doing in the first place???
Why did he wait until he was called on the carpet before he started acting prudently – which he should have been doing all along??? Why was this man re-active, rather than pro-active – in being a responsible care-taker and dispenser of the owner’s property?
And then I can’t help but think the same thing about the Bishops in our Church. . .
No doubt we live in a very different, and very safer – church than we lived in and had 17 years ago before the Boston Globe first broke the story of the abuse of children and cover ups that had occurred for years. . .
We now have what is called the Dallas Charter – so called because it came out of the Bishops’ meeting in June of 2002, which met in Dallas that year. The Charter which gives the Church a comprehensive set of procedures to address sexual abuse of minors by Catholic Clergy – one of which is to simply cooperate with civil authorities when a suspected crime has been committed – what a novel idea!!!!!!
This, and the other procedures put in place – are signs of being a good steward – of being a responsible care-taker of the most important assets, our children, entrusted to the Church by God -------------- but why did it take getting caught in a cover up --- and getting called on the carpet for this to happen?
Those of us who do ministry in the Church with children– know that these days we just can’t show up and do something – we have to undergo a criminal background check, take Virtus training on creating and maintaining safe environments and boundaries, and keep current on our training. Since 2004 – I have done two live trainings, been through 4 versions of on-line training and have read 227 training bulletins. .
Yes, we are better stewards of our children these days – but why did we have to be re-active, rather than pro-active?
Many priests have been removed from ministry and have gone to prison for their misdeeds -----and rightly so!
But when is someone finally going to hold the Bishops accountable for moving abusive priests from parish to parish --- and covering up their actions?
Like the dishonest steward in the parable who lost the confidence of his master --- I think the church has certainly lost the confidence of those who strive to be faithful followers of Christ – and who have not had good role-models of stewardship – many in leadership positions have failed to be responsible care-takers of the souls that were entrusted to them by God: have failed to view each person, especially the most vulnerable – as a precious and vital resource of great potential for the glory of God and God’s kingdom.
BUT, just because we have not had good role-models in stewardshp doesn’t mean that we should become wasteful, reckless, or foolish in what God has entrusted to us – which truly is everything that we have and own.
As C.S. Lewis said: “every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs form moment to moment, is given you by God. And if you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service, you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already.”
We need to be faithful stewards of all God has given us. We need to use each and every opportunity given to us as a gift by God --- to glorify God, to serve the common good, and to help build the Kingdom of God in our midst. . .