Sunday Sermon for September 18, 2016, the Twenty Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Readings: Am 8:4-7; 1Tim 2:1-8; Lk 16:1-13
We see in the readings today the challenge of living a truly Christian life. That challenge is not due to the kings and those in authority for whom St. Paul asks that prayers would be offered so that we can live a quiet and tranquil life of devotion and dignity. Rather, the challenge is an internal one that is marked by the need to find the balance between living our faith and living in the world.
St. Paul mentions in the second reading that he was appointed preacher and teacher to the Gentiles. In another passage he says that he is a co-worker with Christ and in another he says that he is a steward of God’s message. It would be easy to look at St. Paul and realize that these things were true of him, but then turn around and excuse ourselves of any obligation in this regard due to the fact that we are not called to be preachers and teachers of the Gentiles.
While it is true that St. Paul was entrusted with this obligation in a very profound manner, it is also true that you and I have been entrusted with a similar obligation in our own situations in life. Our Lord tells the parable in the Gospel today about the unjust steward who squandered his Master’s money and sought only his own desires. You and I have been chosen by our Lord to be stewards of the gifts that He has entrusted to us. Have we squandered them or have we used them for the good of others and the glory of God?
Because most of us have to live in the world, it is very easy for us to get caught up in the monetary concerns. In any startup business cash flow is almost always the biggest challenge. For most people in America making it from paycheck to paycheck is a serious challenge. Beyond just the money we can easily get caught up in the quest for more material goods. Even more problematic today is the insatiable thirst for entertainment and sensory pleasure.
Things have become so bad that we no longer wonder when the Sabbath will be over so that we can sell our goods. No, Sunday has become just another work day where we can buy and sell. In fact, it has become one of the most lucrative of days for retailers. Do you see how insidious the devil is? If someone wants to run a business and be Catholic at the same time, there is a huge temptation to be open on Sunday because of the amount of income that can be generated on the Lord’s Day. Of course, we also have the flip side of this: consumers are going shopping on Sundays and pouring out huge amounts of money for the retailers.
Not only do we see that the temptation cuts both ways here, but then we have the justifications and the rationalizations that follow: Everyone else is doing this; I would look stupid if I was only only one not doing this; I would not be able to stay in business if it weren’t for Sundays. All of these kinds of excuses reveal not only a lack of fidelity to the Lord, but also a profound lack of trust.
This is why I said earlier that those in authority are not the cause for the challenge that is ours today. No, the real challenge is within our own selves. Are we willing to stand against the tide of secularism and materialism that is so pervasive today? Our Lord told us that we cannot serve both God and Mammon. Unfortunately, it is not only the secular people who have chosen Mammon, but many in the Church have done the same thing. We have come to the point where many people have tuned out the homilies of various priests and bishops because they regard them as hypocritical. They talk about spiritual things, but they seem to live for money. Of course, in some parishes there is hardly a word about spiritual things because the homily is all about the need for more money.
No wonder we have the problems we have! When God is not the primary focus of our lives, then our priorities are going to become skewed. This is true not only for those who have dedicated their lives to the Lord as priests or consecrated persons, but it is true for all of us who have been dedicated to Christ through our Baptism.
Most of us have lived fairly tranquil lives, but many have forgotten why St. Paul asked us to pray for this grace: so that we could live a life of devotion and dignity, not of comfort and materialism. Therein lies the interior challenge for each of us today.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.