07 September 2012

Stewards & Fools

22nd Week OT (F): Votive Mass of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Paul has spent this week surprising us with his take on the difference btw being “wise in the world” and “foolish for God.” Just yesterday he told us, “If anyone among you considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool, so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God.” For the followers of Christ, salvation depends on becoming increasingly foolish—as the world sees it. And looking around the internet and cable news, it's clear that the world sees us as Big Fools Only Getting Bigger. From their perspective—atheist, materialist, secular, nihilistic—it's easy to see why Christians in the 21st century would look foolish. We believe all sorts of bizarre things: the existence of angels, saints, miracles, God; the efficacy of sacraments; the intelligibility of truth; objective moral standards; the natural law. Just weird stuff like that. This is why Paul's description of Christ's 1st century followers in Corinth should ring particularly true for us today: “Brothers and sisters: we should be regarded as the servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” 

We know what it means to be “servants of Christ.” Serving Christ means serving the least among his people, both the materially poor and the spiritually poor. As we have already heard this week: proclaiming the Gospel is doing the Gospel. Word and deed, faith and works. Done for the greater glory of God, there is no difference btw the two. But what does it mean for us to be “stewards of God's mysteries”? In Paul's day, stewards were usually slaves, educated slaves who managed the household of his owner. He was in charge of the other slaves; responsible for shopping, accounts, payroll. In the absence of the owner, the steward was the de facto Head of Household. When Jesus gives the keys to the kingdom of heaven to Peter, he is making Peter his steward, his vicar. Peter and his successors become the ones who manage, administer Christ's Church on earth until he returns. More than anything else in the Church, Christ's steward “manages” the mysteries that bring us closer to God, the sacraments. But what does it mean for you to be a steward of the mysteries? This is where we become better fools for God. 

While the Church has her ordained ministers to manage the sacraments, what mysteries do her lay members manage? The first and greatest mystery that needs careful lay management is one's faith. Faith is the good habit of trusting in God's providence, His loving-care. For a habit to remain a habit, it must be exercised, worked-out—vigorously. This means setting aside, willfully pushing aside, all anxiety about the future. It means setting free the obsessive need to control people and events, to make sure that you get your way. It also means believing w/o empirical evidence, or persuasive argument. Faith never utters the phrases, “Show me” or “Prove it” when it comes to the will of God. In this world, faith is pure foolishness, the greatest foolishness. We are an evidence-based, outcomes-driven culture that demands empirical, verifiable, repeatable results. Faith sees and hears the world with the mind of Christ. The world's wisdom teaches us that we are nothing but our bodies. Faith teaches us—through the dual lenses of enduring hope and sacrificial love—that we are made perfect (body and soul) in Christ. The world fears its limits, loathes its finitude, and works tirelessly to gather to itself any and everything it can to stall annihilation. Faith knows that nothing gathered here will last, nothing won here will bring final victory. As the wise of the world wail against our foolishness, remember: we are stewards of the mysteries of God, His faithful servants, His hard-headed slaves.

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  1. I wanted just a little more at the end - just to fully finish it out. Otherwise, I liked this one: steady and sure throughout, logical.

    Count me in for the foolishness :-).

    Have a great weekend!

    1. This one has a story. . .I'd finished it and was ready to post. Read through it and the gospel one more time. Then it hit me: I'd completely misread the last two lines of the gospel. Nothing I'd written made any sense at all. Had to start over. Was printing this one two mins before Mass. Yikes!

    2. I've done something like that before - now I'm even more impressed ;-). Aren't you glad your brain works that fast?

      And while I've got your attention, could you please add a "safe trip for Shelly" prayer intention for tomorrow? I haven't driven faster than 35mph in months, and red lights? traffic? Now that's a "yikes"!!

    3. There are advantages to having an over-caffeinated squirrel brain sometimes.

      Will pray that you arrive safely!