Monday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

The Responsorial Psalm makes a promise to faithful stewards: “Those who are victorious I will feed from the tree of life” (Revelation 2:7, Psalm 1).

In Revelation 1:1-4 and 2:1-5 God highly praises the church in Ephesus. Who would not like to receive the words of approval God gives here?


But God is not satisfied with this congregation: “I hold this against you: you have lost the love you had at first. Realize how far you have fallen.”


God is a lover. He wants us to love him back with a passion that matches his own. If our love for him cools, it is not enough that we continue to obey his laws, work untiringly for him and even “endure hardship” for his sake. What God gives to us, and what God wants from us, is passionate, personal love.


If we have ever known what it is to serve God as a person, to serve him with fervent love in response to what he is, we must not lose that focus. If we do lose it and begin to just “do our job,” because that is what is expected of us, Jesus says to us, “Repent”— seek a metanoia, a change of mind and outlook. “Do the works you did at first.” What fired and sustained your love then? Go back and rekindle the flame by doing what you did then. Do, and I will feed from the tree of life. “If not,” he says, “I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place!”


These are tough words. But God doesn’t play around with love. He wants it. “To love God with all your heart, with all your understanding, and with all your strength… — this is much more important” to God than any external actions (Mark 12:33). Stewardship is not measured just by the amount of work we do for God. God wants the work of our hands to express the orientation of our heart. Stewardship is about managing love.

In Luke 18: 35-43 we find the way to begin. When the blind man cried out, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He would not help him until the man knew what he wanted and knew that he really wanted it. It is the same for us.


The blind man said, “Lord, I want to see.” Can we say that? Do we really want to see all that God promises and asks? Do we want the whole thing?


Jesus said to all of us through his apostles, “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” If we want to be his friends, we want to know all we can about him. By feeding from the tree of life. 1

Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Make use of the gifts that help you know him.


1 John 15:15.


View Today's Readings Here



THE THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY OF THE YEAR A

What is Responsible Stewardship?

Inventory

How would you describe what it means to be a “worthy wife” (Reading I) or a “worthy husband”? What is a “worthy Christian”? Have you ever gotten explicit about it in your own thinking? Are you interested?


Input

The Entrance Antiphon begins “My plans for you are peace and not disaster…..” Believing this, we ask God in the Opening Prayer(s) to “keep us faithful in serving you” because this is our “lasting joy.” God is the “ever-living source of all that is good.” He has made promises. And fulfilled his promises through “our Lord Jesus Christ,” and continues to fulfill them through the same Jesus acting in the Church that is his body by the power of his Spirit poured out in our hearts today.


Because we believe God is faithful in fulfilling his promises, we ask him to “expand our hearts with the joy” they contain. For this we ask him to “help us drink of his truth.” That is what will expand our hearts and motivate us to serve God “in faith and in love,” which is the way to “know forever the joy of his presence.”


Serving God is not static. In every prayer we ask for “forward motion.” We ask him to “expand our hearts” (Opening Prayer), to “increase our love (Prayer Over the Gifts), that we “may grow in love” (Prayer After Communion). To be faithful stewards we have to “invest” what is given to us and make it increase (Gospel).


Jesus said that everyone “trained for the kingdom of heaven” is like the person in charge of a household who knows how to take out and use “what is new and what is old.” That is faithful, forward-looking stewardship.

The Ideal Wife


Most of the qualities of a “worthy wife” listed in Proverbs 31: 10-31 sound like a TV commercial. She is efficient, smart and hard-working. All in her household are well-fed and well-clothed. She makes her husband look good to others. She is a good mother. And the commercials say they have just the products that will help her be all this!

But Proverbs goes farther. The good wife has a soul. She “reaches out her hands to the poor.” She “opens her mouth in wisdom, and on her tongue is kindly counsel.” And Proverbs adds what the commercials never say: “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain. The woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”


In the Proverbs description, a wife is an ideal steward. To manage what is entrusted to her, she makes wise and responsible use of all of her gifts, both natural and divine. The divine gifts are the ones the commercials and the shallow evaluations of culture do not take into consideration.


These are the ones we should look at.


Scripture gives no description of the ideal husband. (The maliciously-minded might suggest this is because even God cannot describe something that has never been seen on earth!) There is, however, a brief exhortation in Ephesians 5: 25-33 that urges both husbands and wives to live out in their marriage the mystery of Christ living and acting in them both.


The Responsorial (Psalm 128) assures us “Happy are those” Christian spouses who “fear the Lord” — that is, respect and reverence him enough to be conscientious about living their marriage consistently on this mystical plane. To be “good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1Peter 4:10), we need to examine, be aware of and use all the gifts and powers God has entrusted to us. “Being Christ” to one another is one of them — in and out of marriage.

Investment Banking


The shocking thing about Matthew 25: 14-30 is that the master reacted so strongly to the servant who did not invest the funds entrusted to him. He didn’t just reprimand him or fire him. He called him a “worthless, lazy lout” and told his other servants, “Throw this worthless servant into the darkness outside...!” Would you want to work for a boss like that?!


Remember, when Jesus told this parable (and it is a parable, a fictitious story meant to make a point, not a newspaper article or self-portrait), he was nearing the end of his mission. His death was coming soon. (And the end of the liturgical year is approaching as we read this Gospel). It would be understandable if Jesus’ preaching at this time took on a new note of urgency and insistence. Once he dies, it will be up to his followers to continue his work. Jesus will be doing it in them, as in his own risen body, but he will need them to do their part.


Scripture scholars call Matthew’s chapters 24 and 25 the “eschatological discourse.” Jesus is looking ahead to the “end time” and alerting his disciples about what they must do to be “faithful stewards” ready to meet their master when he returns again. All of the parables in this section have a note of warning in them.

The point of today’s Gospel is that we are not “good and faithful servants” (the same word again: pistos, meaning faithful) unless we conscientiously manage what has been entrusted to us as Christians, and manage it to bear fruit. It is not enough to “keep the faith” or just avoid losing the gift of divine life by “mortal sin.” The gift we have received is a gift to work with. If we don’t use it, we lose it!


The master in the parable said to take away from the “worthless” servant what was entrusted to him, and to give it to the one who got the most return on his investment.

For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.


The truth is, there is no one in the Church who “has nothing.” But if we don’t bother to take Inventory of the gifts entrusted to us, and act as if we had nothing to contribute to the work of the Church on earth, and no part to play in continuing the mission of Jesus, then even what we think we received by being “saved” will be taken away.


A serious thought. Perhaps we should ponder more deeply what it meant when we were anointed with chrism at Baptism and consecrated “kings” or “stewards of the kingship of Christ.” This was a solemn commissioning — an empowerment entailing commitment — and we need to be aware and conscientious about what it commits us to do.

Wake-up Call


In 1Thessalonians 5: 1-6 Paul tells us we are “not in the dark” about how things will be when Christ returns. “No,” he says, “all of you are children of light and of the day.” There is no reason why the “day of the Lord” should “catch us off guard.” In every Mass the Rite of Communion reminds us that we are a waiting, an expectant people. We “await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”


We don’t have to know “specific times and moments.” We are committed to doing the Lord’s work as “faithful stewards” all the time. It is our way of life. For us, every day is the “day of the Lord.” We are always prepared and preparing for his coming — whether he comes at the end of the world, at the consummation of our own lives, or in the movements of heart and inspirations of mind he gives us every day. We are “awake” to what is going on around us, and “sober” — serious, intent — about what needs to be done to bring everything we are involved in under the “reign of God.”


Communion is a “foretaste of heaven,” during which we are able to just rest in abandonment to the Lord who has abandoned himself to us. But it is a brief rest. Almost immediately the presider goes on with the Prayer after Communion, gives the blessing, and says “Go!” But is is never just ”Go.” It is “Go forth, the Mass is ended.” Or “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.” Or “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.” If he just says, “Go in peace,” all understand this is an active peace, the peace Christ gives, which is designed to bring peace to the world. This is our commission as stewards of the kingship of Christ. The Eucharistic celebration ends on this note, as Jesus ended his mission:


See, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high…. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations… And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Luke 24:48-49; Matthew 28:19-20).

Insight

How do you understand your baptismal consecration as “king” or “steward of the kingship of Christ”? What do you understand better now?

Initiative:

Develop the habit of being always mindful of your baptismal consecration as a steward of Christ’s kingship. Be intent on using your gifts to bring about change.



View Today's Readings Here


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Saturday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time

The Responsorial Psalm promises the fullness of joy to those whose respect for God keeps them faithful to him: “Happy are those who fear the Lord” (Psalm 112).

3 John 5-8: John begins his letter saying he is “overjoyed” because of the recipient’s “faithfulness to the truth.” This is a big issue for John, as we saw in yesterday’s reading. And here again he joins “truth” to action: “I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”


Then he gets specific: “Beloved, you demonstrate fidelity by all you do for the brothers, even though they are strangers.” Literally, he says “you do faithfulness” (piston, the neuter of pistos, “faithful”). This is the word used to describe a faithful manager or steward (see Matthew 24:45 and Luke 12:42; 16:10).


To “keep the faith” — “abide in the truth” handed down to us — is to honor God with the reverence he deserves. And this is to our benefit; Happy are those who fear the Lord.” But it is also a matter of our personal honor. It is to preserve and manage responsibly the gift entrusted to us. It is to be “faithful stewards” of the “manifold grace of God.”

In Luke 18: 1-8 Jesus shows understanding and sympathy for us who just don’t see God acting in our lives. He says even a corrupt judge will do justice eventually for someone who petitions long enough. And so will God — if we have the faith to stay active in the Church, even when it seems sterile to do so, and to keep asking.


Then Jesus gives us a little insight into his side of the love-hate relationship between us and God. (Is it too strong to call it that? Say the conflict between us and a God beyond our comprehension). “When the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?”

This is a plea for stewardship. Jesus has entrusted his truth to us, with the “manifold grace” of divine faith, hope and love: the gift of sharing in what God himself sees. “For now we see in a mirror, dimly,” but if we persevere in trusting faith, “then we will see face to face” (1Corinthians 13:12). He begs us to persevere in the light we have, as faithful stewards of the truth, until it becomes vision in heaven. Happy are those who fear the Lord.

Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Find peace in humility and abandonment.


View Today's Readings Here


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