Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!
  

Ave Maria!
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost—22 July AD 2007
Prudence of the Children of Light

[Ordinary of the Mass]
[English Text]
[Latin Text]

    The Gospel this morning presents us with an example of our Lord teaching by means of hyperbole—an exaggeration so obvious that He doesn’t intend us to actually follow the example of the man in the story—but, yet there is some quality about him that does bear emulation.[1] Clearly, our Lord is not directing us to mismanage our employer’s property for our own good. But He is suggesting that we emulate the steward’s prudence in spiritual matters.

    What Saint Paul wrote to the Romans may help to explain the Gospel.[2] Before Baptism, our relationship to God was servile. In his natural state man was very much like a hired laborer, or maybe even like one in bondage. Under the old Law, by keeping the Commandments and observing all of the ritual precepts, the best that a person could do was to stay out of trouble. But under the new law, we have been admitted to the household of God—not as servants, but as His adopted sons and daughters. Paul suggests that this relationship is so highly personal that we can think of God as our Father, calling Him “Abba” which is an Aramaic term of endearment that might be translated into English as the rather familiar “Dad.”

    But this membership in the family of God is not something that we earned. It is a free gift from God, based on the offering of Jesus Christ on the Cross to God the Father. And, it is not a one time gift, but rather one that continues on from the time of our Baptism, even unto eternity, just as long as we do not reject God’s gift through serious sin.

    The day laborer or servant receives his agreed upon wage, and is then sent home, until he returns for his next shift of work. His work is either satisfactory or not, and his continued employment and rate of pay depend very much on the quality of that work. Even if the employer is highly satisfied with the worker, the relationship is one of business. There is no emotional bond between employer and servant—at least nothing approaching the love of a parent for a child.

    The son or daughter is different. A loving father will care for a child and expect very little in return. Even the smallest service of the child for the parent will bring a far more emotional response than the far greater service of a hired hand. The child who makes breakfast, or washes the laundry will be loved far more than the cook or the laundress who does these things in exchange for a wage—even if the hired person does a far better job.

    As a loving Father, God gives us the opportunity to pile up His good graces, even though we have not earned them. Somewhat like the dishonest man in the parable, we can take up our bill of accounts and gain credit for what we have not done. We can take what has been earned by our foster Brother, Jesus Christ and have it credited to us as something we have merited for ourselves. Indeed, that is what our Lord was urging on His disciples. It is not theft, for our relationship is different—Jesus is offering to share the graces He earned with his adoptive brothers and sisters. “He came into His own, and His own received Him not; but to as many as received Him, He gave the power of becoming sons of God” as we hear in the Gospel read after almost every Mass.[3]

    Our Lord praised the unjust steward, not for his actions, but for his prudence. The suggestion is that we should have a similar prudence with regard to the graces of God. When we say our daily prayers, or perform acts of kindness and charity, when we receive any of the Sacraments or make devout use of the sacramentals, whenever we assist at Holy Mass—when we do any of these very simple things of the Faith, we transfer “credit” as it were to our “ledger”—credit far out of proportion to our own efforts in the matter, for it comes in reality from the “ledger account” belonging to our Lord.

    We might also look at the parable from the standpoint of leaving other people spiritually indebted to us. We have the ability to pray for the conversion of sinners, for the health of the sick, for the prosperity of our neighbors, for peace and tranquility, and particularly for the souls in Purgatory. When we stand before the throne of God—and one day we will—it will be extremely beneficial if there are others calling on God for His mercy and benevolence. We must not forget to do good for others in this world, lest they forget to do good for us in the next world.

    We miss a valuable opportunity whenever we fail to take advantage of our Lord’s generosity—when we fail to display the prudence and enlightened self interest of the man in the parable. On Judgment Day God will not take us to task for failure to do the impossible, or even the very very difficult. He knows that He did not create a race of supermen. But today’s parable suggests that He will take us to task for not doing the things that come so easily and earn so much grace. Our excuses will sound very hollow, even in our own ears, on Judgment Day.

  • “I never had the time to pray, Lord, because I needed to watch television.”
  • “I couldn’t afford to feed the hungry without giving up my steaks and lobsters.”
  • “I hardly ever attended Mass on a weekday because I needed the extra sleep.”
  • “It never occurred to me to pray for someone else; I needed my pitifully few prayers for myself.”
  • “The dead were out of sight, so they were likewise out of my mind.”

    All of these graces could have been acquired with little effort, at little or no cost. They have already been earned for us by our Lord, who is waiting to transfer them to us, in exchange for very little. We must make sure that as “children of the light” we are no less prudent than the “children of the world.

    Take every opportunity to seize God’s graces. Prayer, good works, the Mass, the Sacraments, and every other means given to us by God through our Catholic Faith.


NOTES:

1. Gospel:  Luke xvi: 1-9

2. Epistle:  Romans viii: 12-17

3.  Last Gospel: John i: 1-14

 



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