Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost—7 August A.D. 2011

On Taking Advantage of God's Generosity

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


    Our Lord proposes an interesting example to us today—one that He doesn't want us fully to imitate!  Obviously He is not recommending that we give away other peoples' property in order to win friends.  But He is commending the shrewdness—we might say the “enlightened self-interest” of the unjust steward.  He's telling us that it is a prudent thing to look after our spiritual well-being, even going so far as to suggest that we might make a point of putting others in our spiritual debt.

    In a sense, we are quite like the unjust steward.  God is our Master, and He has given us many of His possessions to look after, and to use for ourselves.  He has given us the world around us, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and even our very lives.  More importantly, He has given us our immortal souls;  died for us on the Cross to redeem those souls after the sin of our first parents;  and has given us untold opportunities to nourish and strengthen our souls in the Mass, the Sacraments, the sacramentals, and the indulgences given us through His Church.

    But, just like the unjust steward, we have often been guilty of squandering our Master's goods.  On so many occasions we have taken His material creations and used them for no better purpose than to harm ourselves physically and spiritually.  Instead of putting them to high purpose, we use them for base gain, gluttony, and dissipation.  Or, perhaps, we use His material goods to harm those around us.

    Our Lord is telling us then, in this Gospel passage, that someday soon the Master will be back to relieve us of our material possessions and to demand an accounting.  In the judgment to come, our Lord will take away the things of this creation, and ask us to tell Him what we did with His gifts throughout the time of our earthly stewardship.  In some sense, this ought to be a frightening notion for most or all of us!

    But yet, in this same parable, our Lord also proposes a means to us by which we can make our “accounting” a great deal easier when the time comes.  He has given us great spiritual gifts—things that we have in no way earned, and must be acknowledged to remain His—but He allows us to use them for our spiritual good.

    The most obvious use of His goods that we can make is to stockpile a sort of “spiritual credit” in our own names.  He gives us this opportunity every time we pray;  every time we attend Mass or the Sacraments;  indeed, every time we do something as little as make the Sign of the Cross.  In other words, we can take our Master's goods—with His permission—and invest them in our own name for our own eternal profit.

    But it goes further than that.  You know that, by virtue of what we call the “Communion of Saints,” we are our brothers' keepers.  That is to say that we have a responsibility for one another.  Now, that might include things like seeing to the material requirements of the needy, or it might include counseling and teaching those who are ignorant of the Faith and how to apply it.  Certainly, in modern America we have abundant opportunity for relieving the needs of those who have been the victims of the economy—and there are also plenty of people ignorant of the Catholic Faith.  If we have the good fortune to possess both prosperity and the Faith, we should know that we are sharing in God’s goods.

    We can take all of these spiritual goods we are holding for our Master, and apply them in prayer and penance for those around us.  And by doing that, we can be sure of God's reward for every soul we lead away from the devil, and for every soul we lead closer to God.  And certainly we can expect the gratitude and spiritual help of those souls who go to their reward before us.

    But, perhaps the most important way we can make use of our Master's spiritual belongings is to invest them for the relief of the souls in Purgatory.  It is harder to envision any greater charity than to offer our prayers and good works for those who can no longer offer these things for themselves.  Certainly, our most merciful God will be pleased with the way we are investing his goods.  And it is hard—perhaps “impossible”—to think of any better class of people to have in our debt than those souls in Purgatory; all of who will, one day, reign as saints in heaven.  And it is equally difficult to think of any more powerful way to place them in our debt than to help them in their time of greatest need.

    So, finally, we see what our Lord is telling us.  He is not urging us to adopt the crookedness of the unjust steward.  But he does want us to make shrewd use of His gifts for those around us, for the souls in Purgatory, and ultimately for our own salvation.

    As Saint Paul tells us today, our prayers and penances are valuable because we are God's adopted sons and daughters.  And, perhaps, that is the reason why our Lord and Master is so willing    even anxious    for us to take His goods and invest them with a little worldly self interest    that when the time for our “accounting” comes, He “may receive us into everlasting dwellings.”


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