22 September 201925 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
25 Ordinary Time
25 Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C
Luke 16:1-13
"For a quick check on your heart," someone has wisely counseled, "look into your checkbook."

In the precarious movie industry, actor Paul Newman has managed to remain a super-star for a long time. He is a man who has developed all his personal gifts to the full. His many fans throughout the world will attest to this point. In addition, he has enthusiastically lived verse 9 of today's Gospel. "Use your worldly wealth to win friends for yourselves, so that when money is a thing of the past, you may be received into an eternal home."

Mr Newman has given away more than ten million dollars to various charitable causes. Additionally, he sponsors a camp for youngsters who are terminally ill. Sixteen hundred sick children receive a summer holiday in the country courtesy of the actor. This venture has cost him additional millions.

Billy Graham might have Paul Newman in mind when he said, "God has given us two hands - one to receive with and the other to give with."

If anyone is following the admonition of psalm 113, vs 7-8, it is Newman. "He raises up the lowly from the dust; from the dunghill he lifts up the poor to seat them with princes..."

The next few sentences from this preacher will come as a surprise to no one. Just as Newman is generous with the gifts that God has given to him, so should we Catholics. We need not be as lavish as he is. Yet, would it not be wonderful if proportionate to our wealth, whether large or small, we were?

Please note I am speaking today not about giving to your parish but rather giving to charities across the board. I think of those that especially relieve the burdens of the poor.

Verse 9 of today's Gospel may well have inspired the epitaph found on an English grave. "What I kept I lost. What I spent I had. What I gave I have."

We might do well to reflect from time to time on this message from the Talmud while we still have the time. "We are born with our hands clenched. We die with our hands open. Entering life we desire to grasp everything. Leaving the world all that we possess slips away."

But, brothers and sister, a Gallup poll recently revealed bad news about us. Catholic households contribute on average less money to charities than members of all other religious groups in the United States. There are no pockets in burial shrouds nor armored cars in funeral processions. Still the majority of us are convinced we can somehow take our money out with us into the next life. Unhappily far too many of us possess what are called deep pockets and short arms.

After all, even the pagan Greeks considered the poor "the ambassadors of the gods." Can we Christians and Catholics, who profess to follow the Poor Man of Nazareth, consider them less?

Who was it who said that the hardening of the heart ages people more quickly than hardening of the arteries?

The advice of St John Chrysostom should be taken more seriously by us. God never condemned anyone for not enriching our churches with magnificent furniture. However, He does threaten with hell those who do not give to the poor. Chrysostom might well have had today"s verse 9 in mind or of course the famous Matthew 25, 31-46.

Verse 13 instructs us today: "No servant can serve two masters...You cannot give yourself to God and mammon." With the advice of the Teacher in mind, many of us do attempt to somehow straddle the fence between God and mammon. We are very similar to the man who lived smack on the Mason-Dixon line during the United States Civil War. He did not want to choose sides. So, he wore a Union jacket and Confederate pants. But, unhappily for him, the Union soldiers shot at his pants. And the Confederates shot at his jacket.

Like it or no, we must choose sides. If we opt for the poor, we will discover a wonderful thing happening to us. When love opens the heart, writes one observer, we will find it will also open our hand too.

Recall the aphorism that teaches money can be your master or your servant.

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
25 Ordinary Time
Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Becoming Spiritually Savvy

"Well, if you believe that, I've got a bridge you can buy." That expression came from the antics of George C. Parker. George C. Parker was a clever con man who used to convince people that he could sell them the Brooklyn Bridge. They say he sold the Brooklyn Bridge as often as twice a week for thirty years. Now, why would anyone want to buy the Brooklyn Bridge? It's not like they could put it in their back yards. Well, Parker told his victims that once they owned the bridge, they could set their own tolls. This is a true story. It took place during the 1920's in New York City. Several times the police had to stop the "new owners" of the Brooklyn Bridge from setting up toll booths in the middle of the span.

Now, aside from being naive, and perhaps a bit dim-witted, why would people believe Parker and give him up to $50,000 for the Bridge? This happened because Parker worked hard studying his potential victims. He knew what made them tick and exploited their weakness. For some it was greed; for others it was vanity. "You could rename the bridge after yourself. After all, it would be your bridge." One man had his doubts and asked Parker, "Are you sure the bridge is for sale?"

Parker told him, "Of course it is for sale, didn't you see the for sale sticker on one of the beams?"
And the man believed him!

For those who were a bit more intelligent, hopefully the rest of the world, Parker had set up an office complete with pictures of the Brooklyn Bridge and bogus legal papers. He did quite a bit of work and earned quite a bit of cash. Oh, he also was convicted of fraud and spent the last nine years of his life in New York's Sing Sing Prison.

We don't have to go back 100 years to find people using their intelligence to cheat people. No one appeared brighter or worked harder, or was a bigger cheat than Bernie Madoff. He held high positions on Wall Street. Major companies, large charities and the extremely rich had to beg him to meet with them to discuss investments. Some of them made money. But then what he was doing, a ponzi scheme, came to light in 2008. Investigators estimated the amount of money he cheated people out of to be 64.8 billion dollars. He thought he was so smart, but he was a cheat. He is currently an inmate at a Federal Prison serving a 150 year term.

The first reading presents ancient Hebrews cheating their fellow countrymen. They diminish the ephah, and add to the shekel, and fix their scales for cheating. Let me explain. Say, you were going to buy ten pounds of flour. The flour merchant says that a pound is no longer 16 oz. It is now 12 oz. That would be diminishing the pound. So it would cost you more to buy the amount of flour you needed. And say that you could only buy flour by using the Temple money, the shekel. That meant you had to go to the money changers. You usually get, making a comparison using our terms, a shekel for two dollars. But the money changers, in cahoots with the merchants, are saying that a shekel now costs three dollars. So you end up paying a tremendous amount more for less flour. And to make matters worse, the merchants fix the scales so you are not even getting the little you think you are getting. What cheats! The first reading concludes with "The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Never will I forget a thing they have done!"

We are continually coming upon athletes who cheat. The whole Russian track and field team was barred from the Olympics due to the organized use of performance enhancing drugs. Many honest athletes take second and third to those who are dishonest. But at least the honest athletes can sleep at night knowing that win or lose, they have done their honest best. The same goes for those who cheat at school. Some "A's" are dishonest. It is better to have an honest "C" than a dishonest "A." People have plenty of opportunities to deceive others. It is easy for some people to make others suffer so that they can gain something, financial, athletic, in school, etc. But, as the first reading says, they cannot deceive the Lord. He knows, and he will not forget.

There is another aspect to all this. That is the effort that cheaters put into acquiring dishonest gain. That is what the Lord was speaking about when he told the parable of the cheating or unjust steward. Imagine if that man, and if all cheaters who spend so much time and effort devising schemes to commit fraud would instead use their intelligence to serve the Kingdom of God.

Imagine what our spiritual lives would be like if we used every bit of our intelligence to find ways to live as members of God's Kingdom?

Well, I know many of you do exactly that. Many of you, and hopefully I can say, of us, use our wits for the sake of the Kingdom of God. I love the story in this regard that Randy Raus tells. Randy is the president of Life Teen International. He lives in Atlanta and attends a parish that has 24 hour Eucharistic Adoration, seven days a week. Now as Randy tells the story, he went to Eucharistic Adoration 1 am on a Monday morning. The way his parish has it set up is that in the late night and early morning, the chapel doors are locked. When a person goes to spend time there, he or she knocks on the door and the person inside lets him in and they switch places. Well, it seems that one time Randy did this and the man who let him in saw that Randy was carrying a notebook and a pen. So, he asked him, "What are going to do with those?" Randy said that he likes to journal. "What's that?" the man asked. So Randy explained that he looks at the Blessed Sacrament and writes what he feels the Lord is saying to Him. The man asked if that always worked, and Randy said most of the time. Well, the next week when Randy went to Eucharistic Adoration the same man let him in. He was carrying his journal. He said to Randy, "God's saying a lot tonight."

They met up again a week later, and Randy asked him, "I haven't seen you in Church, which Mass do you go to?"

"Well, I don't go to Mass," the man said, but after this, I'm going to start going again."

Randy was shocked. He said, "You don't go to Mass but you go to Eucharistic Adoration?"

The man responded, "My wife told me that they need a night watchman here from 12 to 1 on Mondays."

Now, there is a wife who used her intelligence to spread the Kingdom of God. She figured out a way to get her husband back to Mass with him thinking that this was his idea and a good one. I've heard that wives are pretty good at that, getting their husbands to do the right thing while having him think it was his idea. Let's face it, guys, most girls know how to outsmart us. Now, ladies, I can read your thoughts. Your thinking, "It really doesn't take much, Father."

I'm sure that there are plenty people reading this who could also tell stories on how they used their intelligence to bring others to God or to come closer to Him themselves. There are many people who know how to avoid problems and how to put themselves in the proper place to be the sons or daughters of God they were created to be.

A person who acts on his or her intelligence is often called "savvy". A savvy person is as shrewd as a fox. Parker and Madoff thought they were savvy, but they each ended up in prison. And they weren't savvy with that which matters. We can be savvy in finding ways to spread the Kingdom of God.

Today we pray for the grace to always be honest and respectful of others and the grace, well, to be spiritually savvy

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
25 Ordinary Time
Time to Take Action
(September 22, 2019)

Bottom line: Now is the time take action. "No servant can serve two masters...You cannot serve both God and mammon."

Today we have a puzzling Gospel: A master says to his steward, "Prepare a full account of your stewardship". The dishonest steward then commits fraud. Instead of sending him to jail, the master praises him: He "commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently." What's going on?

Well, to understand this parable we have to step back and see what preceded it. Jesus has been addressing the biggest question: eternal life. Do you remember when they ask Jesus "Will only a few people be saved"? Jesus replies, "enter through the narrow gate". Jesus later tells us we cannot be his disciples if we love parent, spouse or child more than him. Finally last Sunday Jesus tells three parables about redemption: the lost coin, the lost sheep and and the lost son. We are lost and we need to be found.

We are in a high stakes game. The stakes in fact could not be higher. But you know, most people say, "ho hum, that will wait, I've got more important business."

They are like the ones Amos describes in the first reading. They ask "When will the new moon be over...and the sabbath, that we may display the wheat?" So anxious to get back to business, they chafe at the sabbath observances. Today of course many people don't even realize there is a sabbath - a day dedicated to the Lord. They barely think about God. For sure most don't deliberately reject God. They ignore him. They think that even if he does exist, he doesn't matter.

In face of this apathy Jesus tells a parable meant to deliberately shock. It's about a steward - a kind of financial administrator - who's about to lose his job. He's too weak for manual labor, too ashamed to beg. So he does something desperate. "I know what Is shall do," he says, "that when I am removed from stewardship, they may welcome me into their home." He cook the books, reducing a few people's debts. He hopes that when the master puts him out, somebody will remember what he did and take him in.

It's crazy. But the master praises him. Why? Because he takes action. He assesses his situation, realizes he could lose everything and so he acts.

That's the situation you and I are in. We can only enter through the narrow gate. Jesus says it clearly, "You cannot serve both God and mammon." Mammon means money and the stuff money can buy.

A couple weeks ago Jesus said that to be his disciple we have to renounce our possessions. This means everything we possess we place at Jesus' disposition - like the early Christians did in the Acts of Apostles. This becomes harder as we get older because we have more stuff.

We won't have it long. When multi-billionaire John Rockefeller died someone asked his accountant, "How much did he leave?" The accountant answered bluntly, "All of it."

So will you and I. Despite great medical advances the mortality rate is still 100%. Jesus says, "make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so when it fails you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings". Now is the time take action. "No servant can serve two masters...You cannot serve both God and mammon." Amen

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
25 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
25 Ordinary Time
Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
9/16/2019 0 Comments
The Gospel text today is rather puzzling. It is about the dishonest steward who when he faced dismissal marked down the debts owed to his master by various of his debtors. He did this in order that once he was made redundant these men would be obligated to help him. When the master finds out about his actions, he unexpectedly praises the steward for his dishonesty.

By telling this parable me might be left with the idea that Jesus too is condoning the actions of this dishonest steward. But we know that this cannot be; Jesus would never approve of dishonesty or double-dealing. Actually, when we take a closer look at the text, we see that Jesus draws a conclusion from the story. He says, 'The children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the children of light.' By this we understand that Jesus is contrasting the actions of the children of this world, namely the pagans, with those of the children of light, who are obviously the Christians.

Jesus does not want us to be like the pagans but he wants us to be just as astute as they are; but in our case to be astute in relation to those things which will ensure that we reach heaven. As we have so often noted, Jesus wants us to acquire the virtues because it is our practice of the virtues that will enable us to gain entry into his Kingdom. So, what we need to do is to put as much energy into acquiring these virtues as the pagans put in to aggrandising themselves and gaining worldly advantage.

St Luke follows up this parable with a few sayings of Jesus which he thinks fit in with the theme of this chapter of his Gospel which is the relationship between the Christian and the material world. The first of these sayings is this: 'Use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity.' Here it is clear Jesus is speaking about the poor. He is telling us to use our money not to find worldly advantage but rather spiritual advantage. We know that one of the essential tenets of the Gospel is that the poor have a privileged place in his Kingdom; so, therefore, using our money to help them will have the effect of enabling us to enter the Kingdom more easily.

Every Christian should be sensitive to the needs of the poor. Of course, it is very difficult to know who the real poor are. I remember talking to a fellow who was selling the magazine for the homeless called the 'Big Issue', I asked him about his life and it turned out he wasn't homeless at all and indeed I was astonished when he told me he was saving up to buy himself a boat!

Recently, I was approaching Westminster Cathedral when a couple of young women, who were sprawled on the pavement in Victoria Street drinking rather strong beer, started shouting at me. Because I was a priest, they thought that I ought to be giving them money. They called me a hypocrite when actually just the week before we had taken up a collection here in the Church to raise about £400 for the homeless centre run by the Sisters of Charity just around the corner to where they were sitting. If they were really homeless then they would have been grateful for this. But these people were clearly spongers and probably not poor at all. They were perfectly capable of working but yet would rather beg for money to pay for booze than earn a proper living.

The real poor are hidden; they have their pride and would never beg. Rather they prefer to struggle along doing their best to raise their children and living a poor but honest life. These are the ones we really need to be helping. But it is not easy; we need to establish a relationship with them, we need to become friends so that we can support them and help them out in thoroughly practical ways. This is how we show our commitment to the Christian faith. This is how we put into practice the teaching of Jesus.

Another of these sayings on this topic that St Luke has collected is this: 'No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn.' The two masters are, of course, a self-seeking materialistic form of life or a spiritual and heavenly form of life. In short, paganism or Christianity; the Devil or Jesus. We cannot be beholden to both; we have to choose: materialism or faith, Jesus or the Devil.

A lot of us are tempted to sit on the fence and try to avoid making this choice. We may like to feel religious but we also like to own many material possessions. We say our prayers but we are also in thrall to fashion or to materialism, we want the latest gadget, we find ourselves thinking that acquiring more and more makes us better and better people. We start to measure our worth in terms of money in the bank or in the size of our house. Now there is nothing wrong with success, nothing wrong with living a comfortable life; the problem arises when these things become an end in themselves. The problem arises when we find ourselves ignoring the spiritual aspect of life in favour of these far more worldly concerns.

What Jesus is telling us is that we need to make a decisive choice in life. We need to definitively choose between the world and the spirit. Yes, have material things, seek success in work, live a comfortable life. But be cautious of these things. Understand well that they are not an end in themselves. Realise that the things of the spirit need to be given priority. Make more room for prayer; attend to the needs of the poor; do your best to life an honourable life; put more energy into acquiring the virtues than you put in to increasing your income. This is how to live the Christian life.

As Jesus says, 'You cannot be the slave of two masters.' So, choose your master. Make your choice and stick to it. Be astute in those things which will gain you a place in heaven. Pray to God, frequent the sacraments, attend to the poor, love your neighbour. Do these things and you will find favour with God. Do these things and you will ensure your eternal destiny.'
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