Friday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time

The Responsorial Psalm promises the “great joy” which opens John’s letter, but with a condition attached: “Happy are they who follow the law of the Lord!” (Psalm 119). Both readings emphasize this condition.

2John, verses 4-9: In this short letter the word “truth appears five times, and “teaching” three times, with a plea to “abide” in it (because the mystery is that the truth “abides in us and will be with us forever”). “Love” appears twice joined to “truth” and twice as Christ’s “commandment.” Clearly, for John, to love God as we should we need to correctly understand and follow his commandments. For this, it is essential that we “abide” in the teaching that enables us to “walk in the path of truth.”

This is a relevant reminder today. Benedict XVI maintains that the greatest danger to faith in our time is a doctrinaire “relativism” that he defines as a “self-imposed limitation of reason to the empirically verifiable.” Anything that does not conform to the “canon of scientificity” – for example, all the “human sciences, such as history, psychology, sociology and philosophy” and a fortiori religion — is declared anathema and sent to the stake as unscientific. It is labeled “just opinion,” indemonstrable, uncertain. This is agnosticism.

There is a religious relativism, however, that is very common in our day. People join churches that make them “feel good” — or even “meet them where they’re at” with valid spiritual nourishment. But they don’t seem to ask whether these churches have maintained the authentic teaching of Jesus Christ passed down for two thousand years. If they feel a particular minister or congregation is giving them more on Sunday than their parish church is, they switch religions. For them, the truth —”doctrine” — is not important.

In the short term they may actually be getting more. But they are cut off from the wholeness of Christian revelation, and especially from the mystery of the Eucharistic sacrifice (that they may never have experienced at Mass, because of the level on which they were participating). Now they will never grow into it. Neither will their children. As unfaithful “stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1Peter 4:10) they threw away the truth that was handed down to them, entrusted to their care.

In Luke 17: 26-37 Jesus warns us to look ahead. We can get so caught up in the present, the superficial and transitory, that we forget what we are really living for. Stewardship is alert, responsible management of all the gifts God entrusted to us. Long term. Happy are they who follow the law of the Lord! — in its wholeness.

Initiative: Be Christ’s steward: look at the whole picture. Make it work for you.

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Thursday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time

In Philemon, verses 7-20, Philemon thinks he owns his slave Onesimus and has the right to tell him what to do.

Paul starts by establishing identities and relationships. Surprise all around! The Romans think Paul is just their prisoner. Paul says he is a “prisoner for Christ.” Philemon thinks Onesimus is his slave. Paul calls him “my child.” (Paul brought him to life through Baptism. See Galatians 4: 19; 1Corinthians 4:15). And Paul says that when it comes to giving orders, “I have every right to command you,” because the issue at hand is “what ought to be done,” and Paul speaks for Jesus in this. But Paul prefers to “appeal in the name of love.”

Here Paul goes to what should be the core of all Christian relationships — with others and with God. Ultimately the only relationship that counts for anything is the relationship of love. All others are just ways of living it out.

Paul calls Philemon to rethink his perceptions; to see reality, not through the eyes of human culture and legal bonds (e.g. master and slave), but in the light of our faith. He suggests that perhaps God let Onesimus escape “for this reason: that you might possess him forever, no longer as a slave, but as more than a slave, a beloved brother.”

He adds, “Now you will know him both as a man and in the Lord.” The phrase “in Christ” is Paul’s theme-song. The Jesus Paul met on the road to Damascus (Acts 9: 1-5) revealed himself as identified with the members of his body on earth. In others we see Christ.

This is stewardship. Paul is trying to change Philemon’s whole perception of human society, relationships and identity. When Christians succeed in making this perception universal, we will have “renewed the face of the earth.” That is the Kingdom of God.

When will this happen? Jesus, when questioned about it in Luke 17: 20-25 replied, “Don’t ask!” The kingdom of God is not something you can see coming like a social trend. You can’t measure its progress or predict its arrival through statistical analysis. The “reign of God” exists in the measure that each human heart is surrendered to God’s will as revealed through the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit. Try to get statistics on that!

Our job as stewards of Christ’s kingship is not to make surveys of our success, but just to keep persevering in faith and fidelity until Christ comes again.

And to trust in God: Blest are those whose help is the God of Jacob.

Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Work for change without anxiety.

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Wednesday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time

The Responsorial Psalm reminds us where to look for guidance and support: “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want” (Psalm 23).

Titus 3: 1-7 teaches us that even though “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20), we need to be good citizens of this earth as well: to be “loyally subject to the government and its officials, to obey the laws, to be ready to take on any honest employment.” We are not separatists. To work as faithful stewards to establish the reign of God over our society, we have to be involved members of our society. And of the human race as a whole. In the spirit of the Incarnation we say (with Terentius), “I am a human being; nothing human is foreign to me.”

As enlightened by Christ, however, we see that many values humans care about are not authentic human values at all. And “we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient” to God while slaves to society’s demands. We were “blind guides,” led by and leading the blind. But “when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,” God saved us, not because of anything we had done, but just “because of his mercy.” This calls us to be “stewards of his mercy.”

We who, left to ourselves were slaves of cultural conditioning, once freed by God’s mercy, should show this same mercy to all those with whom we associate — in family life, business, politics, or just common citizenship. We show “mercy” (help others out of sense of relationship) by taking responsibility for creating environments in which all can say with gladness and conscious gratitude: “The Lord is our shepherd; there is nothing we shall want.”

Luke 17: 11-19 shows us a man exercising leadership, which is simply stewardship trying to bring about change. One leper out of the ten cured did not act like the others. He “came back praising God in a loud voice.” Whether anyone followed his lead at the time, he set a precedent. He saw what was to be done and did it. Through many acts of leadership like this, we gradually change attitudes and values. We renew society. We just have to be alert to see what is missing, what is wrong, and what will set it right, then persevere in doing it until Christ comes again!

Jesus told the cured leper, “Stand up and go your way.” We need to stand up. Stand up for. Stand up against. Stand up alone. Stand up with others. But stand up. And “go our way,” which is his way, not the way of our culture, the way of our peer group, or the way that teachers who are not the Teacher may have taught us. This is leadership. This is stewardship.

Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Take responsibility for breaking new ground.

View Today's Readings Here

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