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?