31st Week OT (F)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Ss. Domenico e Sisto, Roma
Few of us are surprised when we hear that wealthy, powerful people often abuse their power and wealth. In fact, many of us expect money and influence to be corrupting. When the overriding goal of one's life is material gain and personal glory, it follows that the means of achieving these goals will often make use of less than reputable methods. And why not? If there is little chance of being punished in this world for taking a darker route, and you aren't really all that worried about what happens after you depart this world, then getting what you can now—by any means necessary—seems not only desirable but prudent as well. Why hesitate to take what I want when the consequences of doing so aren't all that bad? Obviously, this is not an attitude that Christians can adopt with impunity! Our goals as followers of Christ do not include material gain and personal glory. Nor do we subscribe to the notion that every means available justifies any possible end. All of this may be obvious as it is, but is it obvious why we cannot live this way? Beyond our sure belief that taking what we want when we want it is a slippery slide into hell, do we as Christians understand our relationship to this world, and why we cannot serve God as dishonest stewards?
Christians are presented daily with a difficult problem: we must live as embodied souls in the world, but we cannot see ourselves as beings created by the world. We have to work, pay bills, do laundry, cook, clean, go to the doctor—just like everyone else. We have to get up in the morning, go to bed at night, and live day to day with others, all of whom are doing exactly the same sorts of things we are. The temptation to assimilate, to lose ourselves in the push and pull of just getting by is tremendous. The temptation to accumulate stuff and seek after personal glory is no less compelling. But “just getting by” is not the work we have been given to do. Nor have we been charged with storing up gold and influence.
Being in the world but not of it means that our sights are firmly set on traveling through this world to the Father's kingdom beyond. Is this travel plan enough to make us into honest stewards? No, it isn't. Though we travel through the world to the kingdom, resisting as we go the temptations of wealth and glory, we do ourselves great damage if we ignore this fundamental truth: the world belongs to God. We are His stewards. Whatever wealth we possess, whatever talents we exercise, whatever time we spend, all are given to us to use in His service for His glory. Good, honest stewards use what they have been given to increase the wealth and glory of their Master. Being in the world means that we use what we have been given to bring creation as close to His perfection as we can. However, not being of the world means that we know our only hope of perfection lies outside the world we live in. The dishonest steward steals from both the world and his master for personal gain. The honest steward uses his master's wealth wisely and benefits both his master and the world.
As children of the light our work is funded by the inexhaustible treasury of the Father's mercy and love. Our citizenship is in heaven, and we have been given all of God's creation to spend for His glory. If we choose to spend His wealth for our own satisfaction, then we join the ranks of stewards who find themselves out of work. However, if we do the job we have been given to do, our reward comes now and forever.
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