Monday, October 10, 2016

The Three Ways - Homily for October 9

The second reading today is St. Paul's letter to Timothy and he is writing about the sufferings he is
baring and how he is even in chains for the love of Christ and for the good of the Gospel as he goes forth to spread the good news of salvation in the world. It's a common thing for him to do - indeed in the lives of the saints as indicated throughout the centuries that it's a good thing for us to reflect on the ways in which we suffer with the Lord, to reflect upon on own sufferings, to reflect upon the sufferings of Christ. In light of that, it came to me of another account of one who was praying with the idea of sufferings - St. Faustina Kowalska. St. Faustina is the great apostle of Divine Mercy. If you pray the Divine Mercy chaplet or if you've ever heard of the Divine Mercy, it came through her. The Lord Jesus appeared to her and gave her the good news to be able to spread His mercy to the world. St. Faustina was one who received a special grace of receiving visions from Christ. The Lord came and gave her a unique experience - not just meditating on the mysteries of the sufferings of Jesus - but experiencing them herself: to experience what it was to be scourged, to experience the crown of thorns, to experience the pain and sorrow of His heart of being rejected by His disciples as they all fled except for John. She experienced these things in a unique way. She knew the sufferings of Jesus, and she tried to unite herself to them. One day she was in the chapel and the Lord came and gave her a different experience of sufferings. And He showed her a multiple of a people, a great number of people; three groups. He looked at her and said, "Do you see these people?" She said, "Yes." And He described them to her, "See the first group. They are simply holding their cross. The second, they have their cross on their shoulder. They are walking, but dragging their cross behind them reluctantly. The third group - see that they are nailed to their cross." She gazed out and saw these things, and the Lord said to her: to the extent to which you unite yourself to my suffering (to the extent to which you nail yourself to the cross, to allow yourself to die) to that extent you will also be with Me in glory. To the extent that you suffer with me, to that extent you will receive glory. That's essentially what St. Paul also says in the scripture today, that if we die with Christ we will live with Him, and if we persevere, we will reign with Him. If we allow ourselves to be united to Christ in His suffering, in imitation of His obedience to the Father, we will share in His glory.

That story came to mind because we essentially see those three groups of people, those three responses to the will of God, in the scriptures today. Two of those we see embodied in the person of Naaman. The ones holding their crosses are the ones who recognize the cross; they see the cross, they know the plan of God, and yet they say, "No." They recognize the cross, but refuse to follow. That was Naaman. We saw in past days (it's not in full text here today) that Naaman was one who was very hard of heart. He was one who was inflicted with an illness. It was common for one to go from place to place to place to find who might be the best healer so that you might be healed. Evidently Naaman had tried a number of places, and yet they were not effective. And so he goes to Elisha, the great prophet of Israel and successor to Elijah, because he knows Elisha is a man of great power, a man of God. Naaman comes to Elisha and says, "I want to be healed. What do I do?" Elisha say, "Go dip yourself seven times in the river." And Naaman comments that there is nicer water where he is from, and that he has seen more healings over there - that seems a rather small thing to do, rather simple, just to dunk himself in the water seven times. "No. I'm not doing that. That's too simple. God doesn't work that way, God wouldn't heal that way. It has to be something much bigger." And he starts to walk away. He sees his cross and says no. Naaman begins to leave, but one of his servants comes up to him and tells him to stop. The servants says, "If He had asked you to do something great and big, something difficult, you would've easily done it because you would've thought that was the will of God for you. But He's asking you to do something so simple. Just to go to the river and wash in it seven times. You've come all this way, all this time, all this effort, all this money, resources for us all to come here with you. Why not just go try?" And Naaman has a moment of conversion and says ok. He goes, plunges seven times in the water (that's where we pick up today) and he is healed. He goes back to Elisha because he realizes who God is, that God doesn't work in exactly the manner he desires, but he is willing to follow the Lord as the Lord desires. To do God's will, rather than to hold the cross, look at it and say no. But rather to climb upon the cross and allow himself and his will to be crucified, that the will of the Father might be made manifest.

It's interesting that he comes back to Elisha and he wants to give a gift, some type of monetary gift or donation to show his gratitude. A lot of times we see that - we receive a blessing from God and we want to do something in return. Elisha says, "No that's not why I'm here. I don't want anything." But we see an interesting response on Naaman's part who says that if Elisha won't take the gift than to at least let him take two mule loads of dirt back home. To us that seems an odd request, but for them it was quite sensible and a profound expression of faith. In the days of Elisha the prophet, there was an understanding that gods were localized, that there was a god of this place, and that place, and the god that place. Wherever you were that's where your god was, that's who your god was. When Naaman realizes he was healed, that's why he says, "Now I believe that there are no other gods, but the God of Israel [the God of this place]." All the others are fake. This One is real, and it's this One that I want to be with, it's this God. But he also knows that he wants to go back home where he's from, so he needs this God, of this land. He wants to take two mule loads worth of dirt, so that the God of Israel might come with him as he brings a part of Israel back home and that he could build an altar on that dirt, and there offer sacrifices to that God. He is essentially saying, "I've been healed and I want to do anything and everything to be united to this God because I know this One has power." A great testament of faith.

We see a similar testament in the Gospel as we have the ten lepers. Again, one of them is cleansed and comes back and throws himself at the feet of Jesus, much like Naaman did with Elisha, thanking God for such a profound blessings. Again, he too realizes the way in which God has worked, that the will of God has been made manifest. He climbs up onto the cross to rejoice and follow the Lord, whatever may be the cost.

These are two great examples, but the problem is that group of the nine. The nine should trouble us a bit. The nine who receive healing from Jesus Himself. They too receive that simple penance of go wash in the water, except it's go show yourself to the priest - an easy thing. They don't expect God to work in that way, but they kind of humor Him in a sense. And when they are healed, they don't come back. And that group is the middle group that was describe to St. Faustina - the one's who pick up their cross, but still try to go their own way, they drag it grudgingly because they don't really want to follow the will of God, but they will if they have to. That's them - the nine. The ones who go offer, and they recognize the will of God. They go with it a bit, but they still try to make it their own path, still try to make the cross their own, not simply to climb upon it and allow the Father's will to be perfectly completed.

My brothers and sisters, the nine is the easy way, and the nine is us. We are the nine. A lot of times we can be the one who is reluctant and completely hard-hearted to God, and a lot of times we can be the one that's completely open to God and everything He desires of us perfectly. But majority of the time, we are the nine. We are the ones who accept the will of God, but we still want it our way. "I'll do your will Father, but let me tell you how it should be done, when it should be done, and what manner it should be done. I'll do Your will Lord. I'll allow myself to suffering a bit, but I'm not going to the extent at which You desire. I'll do your will, but I'm not going all the way." It's a reluctance of our hearts. Second best when it comes to it.

The scary thing is - the devil loves second best. He loves it. We don't talk about the devil enough these days, unfortunately. Maybe I should. But the devil is real, and the scriptures say that he is prowling about like a roaring lion waiting for someone to devour. He's looking after each of us, every moment of the day, he and the other demons of the earth, prowling around trying to find ways to lead us from Christ. They are not so foolish as to come and put the thought in our mind to completely reject Jesus or completely reject His will. They are not foolish enough to think that we would fall for that because usually we see it for what it is, that it's clearly not God, clearly something that's turning me away from Christ, no. When we see a firm rejection of Christ, we usually recognize it for what it is. The devil knows that. Rather choose that path and be completely rejected, the devil encourages us to choose second best. Whatever he can do to get us a little bit closer to himself and a little bit farther from Christ. Anything that he can do to gain us a little less grace than we would have, to love Christ a little less than we could have, to be able to follow the Lord a little less closely and to be more concerned with my will than I would have been otherwise. That's what the devil loves, and it's our job not to make the devil happy. It's our job to reject his lies, because he's a lie and a deceiver. So often, he points out things to us a if they were good, but it's only because he knows they are the second best, and it's his hope to draw us away form the Lord.

Christ calls us, and He calls us to perfect obedience. To allow ourselves to truly be crucified, and not simply to grudgingly carry our cross, dragging it behind us. He calls us to much more because He wants us to have His glory. Remember, if we die with Him, we will live with Him, and if we persevere, we will reign with Him. To the extent that we allow our sufferings to be united to Him in this life, to the extent that we are obedient to the Father in imitation of Him, to that same extent we will share in His glory. That's a big thing - to allow ourselves to rejoice in the glory of God the Father for eternity. It's the good that Christ calls us to.

There are many things that we could reflect upon on how we respond to the will of God. We could look at how we bear our own crosses, our own sufferings. We could look at the ways in which we desire healing, much like the ones in the Gospels. We could look at the ways in which we struggle with the will of God in various other courses of our life. But I want to invite you to reflect upon three ways in which God calls us to Himself. They are rather simple, and yet I think they are the foundation of our entire life of faith. How obedient are we to the Father's will in the manner of these three things: confession, Mass and daily prayer.

I've often said, and preached a number of times about it, that for us to have growth in the spiritual life, for us to have a life of faith that's actually nourishing and productive, producing fruits of the Holy Spirit, we must go to confession monthly, Mass weekly, and prayer daily. You want growth? There is your system. The Church sets the bar rather low for us because She knows it's difficult for us sometimes, because we do struggle with carrying the cross - nine out of the ten lepers struggled with it. The Church recognizes and sets the bar low for us, but encourages us to go higher. We are required to go to confession once a year. But who among us would rather go an entire year of harming relationships only to have to say, "I'm sorry" once and it covers everything? Do we not rather whenever we hurt someone we love, go back and apologize rather quickly? Do we not rather go back and ask forgiveness for our faults, rather than wait for 2, 10, 12 months later when it doesn't really hit us as much? To go to Reconciliation regularly is a wonderful grace to allow us to encounter the mercy and healing of Christ, to heal the relationship which is so often wounded by our sins though we can be unaware of it.

The Church calls us to go to Mass once a week. We are obligated once a week on Sundays to attend Holy Mass as well as on the Holy Days of Obligation, so it's about 57 times a year. This year you get off easy because a couple of Holy Days are on Sunday, so I think we are down to 55 days, 55 hours, that God calls us to be at Mass. 55 hours. Who among us has worked more than 55 hours in the past week? Think about the time you put in just in a workweek or the time you spend just on your children or grandchildren. Think about those relationships and how important they are for you. God calls us for 57 hours roughly, a very small amount. He would love more, certainly. But for us to be able to recognize that. Even if that's the best we can do, because work obligations sometimes prevent us from getting to daily Mass and such, but if that's the best we can do - it's to squeeze every drop of the joy, grace and peace that we can out of this Mass. To enter into it as fully as we can, and to rejoice in the celebration of Mass, this encounter with Christ in the altar.

Lastly, daily prayer. Daily prayer is really the key to all of this because we can go to confession frequently, we can go to Mass weekly, but if we don't have that encounter with prayer, our relationship with Christ really will not grow. Because basically it becomes simply a means of becoming a checklist conversation. Our novena prayers, where you pray the same thing every week, on Thursdays we pray a novena to the Mother of Perpetual Help, it's good, it's holy, it's beautiful. But if our relationship with the Lord is based off a script, there's an issue. If our relationship with Christ is based of someone else's words or prayer, rather than my own encounter with Him, allowing my heart to speak to Him and His heart to speak to me, than it's not really a relationship. It's a book, a story we read about. It's not a relationship with Christ.

How faithful are we in obedience to the Father? Confession, Mass, daily prayer. He sets the bar low because He wants us to come, but as soon as we commit, He invites us to come higher, to go more, to go farther, because He loves us. Because He wants us to share in His glory. He wants to have us experience His peace, ultimately just like the ones in the scriptures, because He wants to heal our aching hearts.

Let us pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit in this Mass, the Holy Spirit who is already residing in our hearts by virtue of Baptism, that He might come and be stirred up once again. As the Lord Jesus comes to us in the gift of the Eucharist, we might be able to have those blessed gifts come and conform our hearts, soften our hearts convert our hearts once more today, to be able to seek the will of the Father and to do it with joy.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Increase Our Faith - Homily for October 2

Faith is a very important thing in the scriptures. At various points, we hear people praised for their faith, as being the means of their salvation, hearing the word of God and finding trust in Christ. But a lot of times when we say the word "faith," what we think, what we understand and what the world understands as faith, are two very different things. When the world hear "faith," they think often of mere superstition They see us as Christians and if we say the right number of prayers , the right number of times, if we pray the right verse or in the right situation ... if we do things just perfectly, God will reward us, God will bless us. They see it sometimes as a complete submission of self to God and the Church in a mindless manner - to put aside all reasoning, rationality, thought, and whatever God says, we follow whatever. Whatever the Church says, we follow whatever. Whatever the priest says, we follow whatever. If Fr. Brent gets up and says the sky is green, by faith the sky is green. They seem also that prayer or faith is simply an easy way out. They see it as taking the easy way, so they don't have to - so we don't have to - deal with the hard things; Those great mysteries, the sufferings and pains of people throughout the world, unjustly so often. They see faith as us washing our hands saying ... you know, we trust, God is God ... and we chalk it off as nothing big. And they see that as faith, but none of those things are really faith. They are false ideas of faith.

Faith is really what St. Paul describes to St. Timothy in his letter today - a profound trust, a rich trust. A confidence in the Lord that He is with us - that's faith. Knowing that when we pray, yes we pray different prayers, novenas, rosaries and chaplets, but it's not a magically superstitious thing. It's a place where it draws us to an encounter and conforms us to a more confident and trusting relationship with the Lord. 

Sometimes yes, our faith goes beyond reasoning, but it's not because reasoning has been set aside, but because we know that God is able to work miracles. He's able to do things in this world that don't make sense. It's being able to follow in a manner that can look like the easy way out, but really it's the difficult way of staying with people in their suffering, not trying to walk away. This is faith, and it's the faith that the Lord invites us to reflect upon especially in the scriptures this weekend.

The disciples come and look at Jesus - they had been walking with the Lord for a while and they recognize they need more faith - who is telling all these people "your faith has saved you... your faith has healed you." They ask the Lord to increase their faith, "Here I am, Lord. Make it happen Big Guy. Work Your magic, increase my faith." And the Lord responds in an interesting manner, as He always does. He doesn't say "Wish granted, you got faith." Rather He says, "If you had faith the size of of a mustard seed, you'd be able to say to the mulberry tree 'Get up and be planted in the cedar wood." Jesus, in His other parables, uses things in an extraordinary manner. But when it comes to us, He uses the smallest things - a mustard seed. He knows wee struggle with faith. he knows that in the depths of our heart, it's hard to have faith. it may seem like the easy way out, but it's incredibly difficult to have faith, to have that rich trust in our God, to have that confidence that whenever things get difficult that God still is with us when everything around us seems to say otherwise. That kind of faith is difficult. And the Lord says that even if you have the smallest of bits, that's enough. That's a starting point. If we have even the smallest amount of faith, it's something that can grow. It's also interesting that the Lord uses the mustard seed, as so many of His parables involve plants, because plants are a beautiful analogy of the soul. There are seeds, there is growth, there is sometimes a lack of growth, there's the death of the plant, there's pruning, there's seasons, there's fruits - much the same with the soul. The Lord God comes and plants the seed of faith, that little bitty seed of faith in the gift of our Baptism and He invites us to allow it to be nourished. But the only way faith is nourished is for it to be used. We can't just open our arms in front of the church, "Lord increase my faith," and expect it to instantaneously happen. It doesn't work - I've tried. It takes us to go forth and be people of faith. In the little things, to trust in the Lord. That willingness to walk day after day after day, trusting over and over again. Having confidence that the Lord is with us.

As we heard in the Gospel a couple of weeks ago, whenever we are able to make something out of a little bit of wealth, we are trusted with more. If we are faithful with little wealth, God will give us great wealth. And if we put to use the little bit of faith we do have, God will increase it and make it a great faith - a faith that has transforming powers, a faith that whenever the big things come, and we walk in the little ways of faith, trust in the little things, that whenever the hard things come, it seems second nature for us. It's normal for us to trust, despite all things otherwise telling us God is not with us. When we have faith, things change. It's that confidence in the Lord; He calls us to trust and confide in Him. . 

We have these two stories set side by side in the Gospel - the Lord always moves and throws curve balls to keep us on our toes and help us grow in our understanding of things. And so, the disciples are hoping to get a little boost of faith, and in response they get, "If you had even a little bit of faith, you could say to that tree to get up and go into the sea, and it would" - a challenge to recognize they faith that they have. But secondly he gives that parable of the unprofitable stewards/servants. "Who among you would go out and have your servant who has been working in the field, to when he comes home you say, "You sit down. I'm going to serve you dinner." Who among you would do that? Nobody because that's not your job. In fact, it's his job. It's fitting, right, it's the normal thing to do, that when he comes in from a day in the fields, you would say "Now you can finished the second half of your job. You can serve me at table and after that you could have your meal." That's normal. It's a story about justice in a certain sense; what do we deserve.

A lot of times whenever we approach faith, it seems as if that simply having faith in God, simply having that rich trust in the Lord, that sometimes we feel it should be a special gift we get in response. That if I have faith, trust in the Lord and follow His ways, that I should be rewarded and God should give me special blessings for it. That after laboring in the vineyard and trusting in Him, I should go home at the end of the day and God should come serve me. That's kind of what the disciples are looking for. They are looking to have themselves cared for, as Peter elsewhere would say, "Lord, we've give up all these things, what do I get in return." And so to the same things with faith. But that's not exactly how it works, Christ reminds us. He says very gently, connecting the two stories side-by-side, that we ought to have faith, He can work with faith. But also, if we do have faith, good. We are supposed to; we're supposed to have that confidence in the Lord. If we labor in the vineyard all day long and trying to give ourselves and increase that faith by trusting in God through the big and the small. Good. We're supposed to. It's not supposed to be a special privilege for only a few. It's something that all of us are called to.

It's something that God rightly deserves - our trust. He deserves to be completely trusted because He is a loving Father. He's a Father that wants the best for us. He's a Father that comes to us and is willing to give us everything, more than what we dare to ask, as the opening prayer eluded to. We can't even to dare ask for the great gifts that God is willing to bestow upon us every day. That's the love of the Father. And that's why it is right, just, that we should trust in Him. Faith is not a special gift. It's the normal course of the Christian life. And so we ask the Lord to be with us today, and by the grace of this Mass that He would come and strengthen us. We pray that prayer of the apostles we hear today for ourselves, "Lord, increase our faith."

Friday, September 30, 2016

Papal Intentions for October 2016

Papal Intentions for October 2016

Universal Intention: That journalists, in carrying out their work, may always be motivated by respect for truth and a strong sense of ethics.
Mission Intention: That World Mission Day may renew within all Christian communities the joy of the Gospel and the responsibility to announce it.

Prayer for the Pope

V. Let us pray for Francis, our Pope.
R. May the Lord preserve him, give him life, 
and make him blessed upon the earth, 
and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies.
Our Father... Hail Mary...
O God, Shepherd and Ruler of all Thy faithful people, look mercifully upon Thy servant Francis, whom Thou hast chosen as shepherd to preside over Thy Church. Grant him, we beseech Thee, that by his word and example, he may edify those over whom he hath charge, so that together with the flock committed to him, may he attain everlasting life. 
Through Christ our Lord. 


Where is Lazarus - Homily for September 25

Readings for Sunday, September 25 / 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Amos 6:1, 4-7 | Psalm 146 | 1 Timothy 6:11-16 | Luke 16:19-31

This weekend we have the uncomfortable reminder that our salvation is not just based off of me and Jesus, but it's me, Jesus and every person I come in contact with through the course of my life - which again should be a little scary for us.

The reading from the prophet Amos and the psalm are a study of contrast to help us get primed for that reflection. The prophet Amos is the type of person that likes to point people out and call attention to the things they are doing and go about the litany of their hard heartedness. And we hear more of that today - how he looks at Israel as the whole entire people, and says "Look, you're sitting on your ivory beds, your nice linens and fancy couches, and you eat all the finest things. You're so self-concerned and complacent. There is nothing really in your heart, except that." It's a very strong rebuke he gives to them.

In contrast to that we have the example of God, who comes in Psalm 146 and describes ways that are entirely unselfish, ways that He pours Himself out simply for the love of others. How the Lord comes to set captives free and give sight to the blind, raise the lowly, protect strangers, help widows and orphans, and certainly we could add to the list. It's interesting - these two: to be self-concerned or to be selfless. That's what it is when it comes down to it.

A lot of time whenever we think about ourselves as sinners, whenever we think about our sins, it seems that we consider most the sins of commission - the words, deeds, thoughts, the actions that are actively done, we know they are bad, and yet we do them anyway. How many times have we said in the confessional, "I thought bad things.  I said something negative about someone. I gossiped. Cursed at the TV last night during the game. Cursed the coach. I drank or ate a little too much .." We think about the things that we do and we think that stuff is bad - and it is - but are we mindful of the things we failed to do that we should've done? That's what the Gospel calls us to reflect upon - the sins of omission, that we have omitted something we ought to have done out of love for Christ.

We see that the Lord gives us the example of, a presumably fictional account, a rich man and Lazarus with Abraham acting there in the midst. The rich in the end, much like that of Israel, has all the fine things: a purple robe, a sign of royalty and richness; his fancy linens; he dines sumptuously each day. It shows the extent to which he is taking care of himself. It's not bad to take care of oneself, but in the midst of it, we have to be concerned about others as well. The rich man passes Lazarus each day as Lazarus sits on his doorstep. As Jesus describes the story, He doesn't say that the rich man actually did anything sinful. He didn't walk outside the door and curse Lazarus. he didn't call him names, kick him or spit at him on the way out. He didn't even think bad thoughts about him necessarily. He didn't do anything - and that's exactly the problem. Lazarus was there, day by day, right outside his doorstep, and the man knows it. And he knows Lazarus - and that's the catch. Whenever he sees Abraham far off, he sees Lazarus and he asked Abraham to send Lazarus - not that guy at the doorstep - send Lazarus. He knows his name. And yet still the hardness of his heart was so much that he didn't do anything for him. A grievous sin of omission, and it is because he failed to do something he ought to have done and thus finds himself in the torments. Again, so often we focus on what we've actually done that was bad. But remember when we fail to do what is good, also bears great weight in the story of our salvation.

One wanted to come up with a little jingle for it, but I didn't because I wanted to get it stuck in your head and get frustrated that you wouldn't get it out. I want a question to roll around in your mind through the course of this week, and if anyone wants to make up a jingle and let me know afterward, by all means, I won't be upset. I want you to think of one question over and over, throughout the day and the course of this week; maybe put a sign in your house or in your car. The question I want you to think over and over again is: Where is Lazarus? As you go to work, to school, on the road, to the store, in your home ... All through the course of our week we encounter many Lazaruses. It doesn't have to be the extreme example of the Lazarus in the story where he is sick, wounded and hungry at our doorstep dying in a sense. It doesn't have to be to that extreme, but sometimes it is. More often that not it's some small needs - someone who is need in a little way - a little word of encouragement or a small deed of kindness, a simple act of love. Those little things, that unlike the rich man, we can crucify our hearts to be able to let Christ come forth from us and show love, to allow my self-concern be set aside, my comfort to be set aside so that Christ can come forth and love.

That's the main piece: Jesus calls us to love, which is a positive action. When asked what was the greatest commandment, He had the 10 Commandments which were all "Thou shalt not's" and He opted for something different that was more basic: love God and love neighbor - positive things. Not just to avoid something pad, but to choose to do something good because it's harder. It's harder to reach outside of ourselves and do good. It's easy to shrink back from doing bad - you just don't do it. But to go the extra step to do something good is a different story.

So we ask the Lord to be with us this week, the grace of this Mass, the grace of our time of prayer - that the Lord may give us new eyes, in a sense, to see as we go through the course of this week "Where is Lazarus?".

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Wake Up! - Homily for September 18

Readings for Sunday, September 18/ 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Amos 8:4-7 | Psalm 113 | 1 Timothy 2:1-8 | Luke 16:1-13

Wake-up calls - they come in a variety of ways, and at different times. It can be a pain in one's chest, or maybe bad news from the doctor, a late night phone call or the presence of the cops at your doorstep when you don't really want them to be there (of course when would that be). But they come - these wake-up calls - as a moment that shakes us and invites us to make a decision, some conversion of our own heart. And that's what the Gospel speaks to us this weekend - of the continue call to conversion, by the form of a little wake-up.

The dishonest steward is a parable that is rather confusing. When you first look at it and read through it, you kind of wonder what in the world Jesus is talking about as he is commending someone who is dishonest and stole from their master. What does it mean? He commends him not for his dishonesty, but his prudence because he recognizes what is taking place before him and he acts. The dishonest steward had apparently been doing this for a while, it was nothing new, that's why he was being reported to the master, and he was let go - he was fired. In some places sometimes it wouldn't have been that big of a deal, you could maybe look elsewhere, look at traveling around and connecting with other people. If things get really bad in our current day, you may be able to fall back upon some government assistance program, but none of those things were present in the ancient world: if you didn't work, you didn't eat, period. And so for him to be told, "You have no job. Make an account of all your works and what everyone owes me. You're done." would have been immediate desperation. He wouldn't have had something to rely upon, necessarily. And so, he realizes he is getting a wake-up call and we hear his internal dialogue, "I know I'm not strong enough to work with my hands. I'm not a physical laborer. I've been pushing the pen a little while longer, working with the books. I'm not a laborer, so I can't do that. I'm too ashamed to beg - I've got my pride. So what do I do?". He starts to think to himself and goes, "Ah, this is what I can  do." He calls in every one of his master's debtors one by one, and to each of them he gives a little discount. "How much do you owe? 100 measures of olive oil? Write a note for 50 - wink, wink - and remember that in the future." Then invites another one, "How much do you owe? 100 kors of wheat? Now write a note for 80, and when l come knocking at your door in the future, remember my generosity." He does this all the way through - dishonestly of course - he's already been dishonest with the wealth that wasn't his and he goes even farther all for himself.

And when the master realizes what the steward has done, he commends him. "Kudos to you man. You're smart. You’re wicked, but still smart, because you needed to provide for yourself. You knew that you had to have a future, and so you went to desperate measure to do it." The actions of the man weren't exactly foolproof, it wasn't a guaranteed thing. The steward could show up at the guy's door to whom we gave a 50% discount on the olive-oil measures, and he could say, "Yeah, thanks for that. Have a good night." and shut the door in his face. It was a gamble, and yet he knew he had to do something. He had to act.

The Lord Jesus doesn't just stop there, He doesn't invite us to be prudent in our actions and daily life. He takes it even farther. As always, He takes the physical connection and brings it into the spiritual level of things - the spiritual life.

How easy it is to forget the spiritual life. We get caught up with the things of the world. Those wake-up calls that come in the flesh are easy to recognize: the chest pains, when the bank account hits zero or negative, when you get bad news from the doctor - these things are physical and clear to us. But our soul doesn't send us a statement of how things are going spiritually. We don't get something that says, "You are going spiritually bankrupt. You need to take some time and figure out what's going on." Nothing of that sort happens. It happens quietly and subtly. We get caught up in worrying about the stuff of the world, and as we begin to take care of our self - and necessarily so (we need to have a roof over our head, clothes on our back and food on the table) - but if we focus on those things too much, it's easy for us to have all of those things and in the end to have nothing. That's what the Lord says, He says that you have nothing if you gain all the things in the world, but lose your soul. If we lose our soul, we have nothing. We can have all the food we want, we can have money for days, a dozen homes all to ourselves, but if our spiritual life is not "there," we've lost everything. So today the Lord gives us the wake-up call and asks, "How is your soul? Do you love God or do you love mammon - the things of the world?" How is your soul?

The wake-up call invites us to action, and that's what the Lord praises and the master praises in the servant. The servant sees that things are about to get bad and he immediately changes course because if he waits until next week he's out of a job completely and doesn't even have the resources to tap into the people he knows, so he has to do something and has to do it now. Do we realize the urgency of our spiritual life in the same manner?

I love technology - it's wonderful because it's helpful in so many ways. One of the things I love is the technology to-do list that can update, connect between my phone and my computer, the real-time updates that can remind me of things to do at certain times. But part of the problem with technology is it's easy to change it. I've had items on my to-do list for a year and a half that every single night, I go look at the list and think, "I'll do that tomorrow" and change the date. And for a year and a half - 500 days - every single day, I've taken that one little to-do item (that would probably take me 10 minutes) and move it because I don't feel like doing it right then. One more day. I'll do it tomorrow ... I'll do it tomorrow .... I'll do it tomorrow.

What's the thing you've been waiting to do until tomorrow in the spiritual life? Been meaning to go to Mass more often during the week, been meaning to make it more on Sundays, been wanting to pray the rosary a little bit more, been wanting to pray a little bit more, been meaning to go back and pick up that devotion I used to do a while back that I just let go a little bit, been meaning to pray the Bible, been meaning to go to confession, been meaning to talk to Father about that question I have about the faith. Been meaning to .... whatever. What's that thing? What's that place in your heart that the Lord is saying, "Wake up and do it! Don't wait for tomorrow. Don't wait until next week. Do it now." Because if we wait until tomorrow, next week, next month, or when we have a free moment whenever we feel like doing it, we will be here a year and a half later saying "Maybe tomorrow ..." Especially in the spiritual life - the spiritual life is everything. When we die, our soul is judge; it's our bodies that decay and wait resurrection later on. Our soul lives on. it's the most important part of us, and today we get the invitation to reflect upon the state of it. How is your soul?