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effective August 6th, AD 2006
I hope that it is obvious to everyone here that our Lord is not encouraging thievery in this morning’s Gospel. The story is allegorical—He is reminding us that if worldly people are smart enough to provide for their futures, spiritual people ought to be no less smart. The word “mammon” simply means “money,” or “wealth.” The phrase “mammon of iniquity,” or “mammon of wickedness,” is a bit of hyperbole, or exaggeration—it is the money or wealth gained in the pursuits of the world. It is “wicked” only in comparison with the wealth that is gained in spiritual pursuits—wicked only when it is used improperly.
We can learn a number of things from today’s parable. The most obvious is that, beyond their basic needs, prudent spiritual people will use the material wealth they have to provide for their future. Saving for old age isn’t a bad idea, nor is it a mistake to help your neighbors when they are down on their luck, that they may help you when you are in need. Our Lord was quite clear that helping those in need would be rewarded as though the help was given to Jesus Himself: “as long as you did it for one of these, the least of My brethren, you did it for Me. We are material creatures—a certain amount of material goods are necessary to our survival—and God will reward us when we help those around us who are less fortunate.
In the eternal scheme of things it might be good to be remembered as benefactors by those who precede us into heaven. Our needs on earth and in purgatory will certainly be placed before the throne of God by those to whom we have been good in this life. The Catechism speaks of a number of “corporal works of mercy”—material good that we can do for our neighbors: To (1) feed the hungry, (2) give drink to the thirsty, (3) clothe the naked, (4) visit the imprisoned, (5) shelter the homeless, (6) visit the sick, and (7) bury the dead.
Of course that neighborly goodness can go beyond material help to spiritual help: To (1) admonish the sinner, (2) instruct the ignorant, (3) counsel the doubtful, (4) comfort the sorrowful, (5) bear wrongs patiently, (6) forgive all injuries, and (7) to pray for the living and the dead.
That last one, “to pray for the living and the dead,” is extremely important. There are people in this world who pray little or not at all. In some cases they are utterly unaware of their need. Certainly prayer for such hardened souls will bring rewards. Prayer for those who govern—both in Church and civil affairs—seems to be of necessity in these days more than ever. The souls in purgatory are saints of God, who will one day certainly see Him face to face—they cannot pray for themselves, and will be eternally grateful for our prayers on their behalf, and for the indulgences which we can gain for them.
As members of the Church Militant, we have the opportunity to gain spiritual wealth for ourselves. We have the opportunity to honor the Saints with our prayers and devotions; particularly the Blessed Virgin Mary. It certainly makes sense to ensure that Our Lady and the Saints have heard from us before in praise—that we don’t wait until we need them, for them to hear from us.
There is a joke about an atheist who called out to God in desperation to start his car, despite a dead battery, so that he could escape from a onrushing avalanche in the mountains of Colorado. After what seemed like forever, the car started, and the man went on to become a good Catholic. But when he got to heaven, he just had to ask Saint Peter about God’s response to that one critical prayer: “Why did it take so long to start the car—why would a miracle take so long?” Peter thought for a moment, and said “Oh, yes! Now I remember who you are. We had never heard from you before, and had no idea where you might be. God started two cars in Montana, a snow mobile in Wyoming, and a truck in Nebraska, before we could trace the prayer back to you in Colorado!”
That is an exaggeration, of course, but yet it makes sense to be on regular terms with God and His Saints before we need to call upon them for help.
As members of the Church Militant we have the opportunity to directly encounter God Himself. He is here each day to renew His Sacrifice on the Cross in Holy Mass. We can receive Him in Holy Communion at that time, and He resides in our tabernacle throughout the days and the weeks and the years. He will wash our children in Baptism, forgive our sins, anoint our illnesses, and unite our families in Holy Matrimony. And when it is not possible for us to come before His altar, He is still quite open to our conversation with Him in prayer; and to our search for Him in the Holy Scriptures; and to our quest for holiness in spiritual readings, and in the lives of His Saints.
That is the kind of prudence our Lord praised in today’s Gospel: corporal and spiritual works of mercy, frequent prayer, and holy reading, and regular reception of the Sacraments.
As Saint Paul told us this morning, our relationship to God is not one of bondage or slavery, but one of adoption. We are adopted sons and daughters who can call God by the familiar name of “Abba”—a term of endearment, not groveling respect. God has given us life in this material world. We may not be “of this world,” but we are surely “in the world.” And God our Father is pleased when we make use of all of these riches we have been given, in order to secure the position of His children with Him in heaven.
The “children of light” ought to be at least as prudent as the “children of the world.”
 George Eastman House, http://www.geh.org/ar/strip52/m198115630025.jpg
 Matthew xxv: 31-46.
Our Lady of the Rosary