25th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Trustworthy Stewardship

Jesus was a man with a mission. He never seemed to stay long in one place. He kept on the move, leaving much of His mission still unaccomplished. His public ministry lasted only about three years - then it was on to Jerusalem to rejection, condemnation, and death on the cross. Seemingly, it was all over. But so much of what He had said indicated that His work would go on, that somehow He himself would keep on living and healing and teaching through His faithful followers.

stewardshipIn today's Gospel parable, Jesus may be suggesting that his followers will always face a kind of urgency in their own generation. If Jesus continues his journey to Jerusalem and is punished and dies, what will his followers do in that crisis?  Will they be "children of light" and have the wisdom to continue to follow Jesus and his ways in that and any other crisis they face?  Or, will they be "children of the world" and go for the quick fix and the easy way out? These same questions can be asked of ourselves: What do we do when crisis occurs in our lives?  What choices do we make?

"Children of the light" are trustworthy stewards.  We hear much about "stewardship" these days. The gifts we have been given in this life do not belong to ourselves alone. They belong to everyone. All good things come from God and we are what we are because of Him. We are called to mission, to stewardship. Like Jesus, we have to keep moving on.

The "dishonest" or "untrustworthy" servant of this week's Gospel takes his place among so many others found in Jesus' parables: with the five foolish virgins, the wedding guest who gets thrown out of the wedding banquet for lack of a proper attire, the rich young man too wrapped up in himself to answer the Call, and the laborers who work all day long only to get the same pay as those hired at the final hour. These are the strange ones - those who didn't prepare well, those who didn't prepare at all, those who "squandered the master's property" or those who seem to have no place in the kingdom.

And we wonder about these folks: these are not bad people. These are not evil or malicious people. But somehow they just don't measure up. The invitation to discipleship is a call to build up the Kingdom in the here and now, and it is at once both Gift and Challenge.

It strikes me that this might very well be what Jesus is saying to us in today's Gospel parable. He seems to be telling us that we need to be realistic; we cannot simply cut all our ties with world we live in. We are sent into the world to share what we have been given. But that doesn't mean that we have to "buy into" all of the world's values either.

Like every generation of Christians before us, we are expected to translate the Easter mystery into the kind of faith, hope and love that we need to refashion our world. But first we have to believe that this New Creation is possible. 

Jesus is asking us about our fundamental choices and loyalties.  He wants to know who or what comes first in our lives.  If, after reflection, we discover that we have been acting more like "children of this world" and less like "children of the light," then today's parable can serve as an impetus to "set things right." It also advises us to be quick about it!  When you get right down go it, God's and only God's business should be first in our lives.

Jesus teaches stewardship and accountability at every turn. He urges us to be concerned for the needs of others. His challenge is that we use God's gifts wisely and well. And He gives us the Power to do all of this. At the heart of our faith is a spirit leading us to acknowledge that it is God's love and goodness that provides so abundantly for all of our needs. And at the center of our love for God is the challenge to share this gift with our brothers and sisters.

We have a responsibility to use the things of the earth, as well as things we have earned, in responsible ways because we belong to a community of human beings - in family, community, parish, nation and world.  The parable should make us uneasy if most of our energy and time are focused on our material security and our future and less on what is valuable in God's eyes. We would do well to heed the warning of Amos in our first reading:  "Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land! ...The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Never will I forget a thing they have done!"

What can we do to make our world a better place; how can we help the desperately poor; to whom must we show forgiveness and compassion; what must we do to deepen our personal relationships?  What, in other words, must we do as children of light in a world that values people and nations based on their power, wealth and influence in the world?

The Gospels tell us that there is no way we can claim to love God without being accountable to Love itself, and without living our lives in the service of others. It is our task to enter into this mystery over and over again, so that we will always see something we have never seen before. It's all about listening to a story with open ears and a fresh heart. It is about crossing over into uncharted lands. It is about constant, interior conversion.

And it is trusting that if we are faithful in a very little, we will indeed be faithful in much.