Immersed in Christ: October 18, 2020
THE TWENTY-NINTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR A
The Stewardship of Grace
What does it mean to treat God as God? Does this suggestion arouse fear or joy?
In the Opening Prayer(s) we acknowledge God as “our source of power and inspiration.” Our “strength and joy.” We ask him to “remove the blindness that cannot know you,” so that we will be freed from the “fear that would hide us from your sight.” We don’t avoid thinking of God, but welcome his presence wherever we are. “For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and for ever.”
The Rite of Communion begins with the Our Father, a “prayer of priorities,” all of which are identified with the triumph of Christ’s victory at the end of the world. It is followed by a prayer that ends in the acclamation: “For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and for ever.” This is the theme of today’s Eucharist.
All power is God’s
Isaiah 45: 1-6 emphasizes that God chose Cyrus — a non-Jew who “knew me not” — and “anointed” him to bring about what God wanted. It was by God’s help that Cyrus was able to “subdue nations.” God used Cyrus “so that toward the rising and the setting of the sun people may know … I am the LORD, there is no other.” God wasn’t leaving any doubt that it was only by God’s own will and power that Cyrus was able to do what he did. “Give the Lord glory and honor.”
God doesn’t normally act through the use of human power. He chose Cyrus by exception. It is true that no one can do anything except by the power that God gives, reaching down to the gift of existence itself. But God leaves people free to use well the power that is theirs, whether by nature or by human acquisition, or to abuse it.
Whatever they do, however, they are fools if they think with blind pride that the power is coming from them or that they have a right to it. When Pilate said to Jesus, “Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” Jesus reminded him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above.” All power is God’s. “For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and for ever.”
All belongs to God
In Matthew 22: 15-21 the Pharisees try to make Jesus say whether or not God was on the side of the Roman army occupying Israel. “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Jesus refuses to get into that question. Instead he tells them, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.” Obviously, if we give to God what belongs to him, there is nothing left over. Everything we have comes from God; we owe God everything we have and are. As stewards of Christ we have “sold everything” for the pearl of great price, the treasure hidden in the field. We have turned over to God all we own, all we are, all our gifts and talents, all the energy we have to use them, our whole lives. And God in return has put everything back into our hands to manage for him as his stewards. How much of what belongs to God we hand over to Caesar for government usage, how much we set aside for our family, or allocate to work being done through the Church or through other organizations — all of these managerial decisions are exercises of our stewardship. But everything we allocate — including the use of our time and talents — belongs to God already, and we allocate it according to what we judge to be his desire. “For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and for ever.” 3
Our power is from God
1Thessalonians 1: 1-5: Paul, Silvanus and Timothy give “thanks to God” for the Thessalonians’ “work of faith and labor of love.” The fruits of the apostles’ preaching were due to the fact that the Thessalonians were “chosen” to receive the life of grace — as are we all. “For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.” The same Holy Spirit whose power worked within the apostles’ preaching also worked, and continued to work, in those who heard and accepted it. All was the work of God. We see ourselves and others responding to the Gospel, serving God with generosity and faithfulness, and we thank God for his mercy and love. God is “our source of power and inspiration”; our “strength and joy” come from him. “Give the Lord glory and honor.”
We are not afraid to give all we have to God and dedicate it to his service as “faithful stewards,” because we know God is more faithful to us than we can ever be to him. “I call upon you, God, for you will answer me.” We know that if we abandon ourselves to God he will “guard us as the pupil of his eye; hide us in the shade of his wings.” That is enough for us.
Do I believe I am absolutely safe if I entrust myself and all I have to God?
Make a list of what you are managing for God — time, treasure and talents— and dream of how you might best invest each.
1 We think of this as the “Protestant ending” of the Our Father, but it comes from ancient Catholic tradition: “Very early on, liturgical usage concluded the Lord’s Prayer with a doxology. In the Didache, we find, “For yours are the power and glory for ever.” The Apostolic Constitutions add at the beginning, “the kingdom,” and this is the formula retained to our day in ecumenical prayer.... The Roman Missal develops the last petition [“Deliver us from evil”] in the explicit perspective of “awaiting our blessed hope” and of the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2760): 2 John 19:11. 3 See Matthew 13: 44-46.
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