Father THOMAS IDERGARD SJ
Homily for 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Year C: Amos 8:4-7; Ps 27; 1 Timothy 2:1-8; Luke 16:1-3
St. Eugenia Catholic Church, Stockholm (English Mass)
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
How can Jesus in the parable in today’s gospel praise a steward who, when fired seeks support by high-handedly reducing other people’s debts to his boss? However, it is not the dishonesty Jesus praises but the fact that the steward acts, fast and concrete, to secure his future. Jesus thus sees the decisiveness as exemplary of our Christian life. We will all sooner or later have to leave this world, and then Jesus wants us to have taken our share of the responsibility for what will happen.
Although I hope and pray that all of you will live on for a long, long time, we know that the day finally comes – as well as we do not know when. The question is then: do I want to live in communion with God here and now, so that I will enjoy it fully in eternity? Do I let my faith live through me, and do I live in a way helping my faith to grow and deepen?
Faith is an attitude of trust in the presence of God; an openness to what God will reveal and give. In dealing with the infinite, almighty person who is God – existence itself, the cause of all causes – we are never in control. One of the most fundamental insights of Christian faith is that your life is not about you. It is not your individual, project. Instead, you are a part of God’s great plan. And as such, you have an important role, designed uniquely for you. But given to you by God, who, if you listen to him, also helps you to exercise it. If you act out of this, extraordinary things will happen.
In our second reading from First Timothy, the Apostle Paul reminded that God “wants everyone to be saved”, i.e. to live in eternal communion with him. But all will not be saved. Contrariwise, Jesus and the Church following him warn us of hell, which paradoxically is a sign of God’s love: God loves us so much that he gives us in eternity what we in thoughts, words and deeds choose here. A life with or without him.
Therefore, like the dishonest steward we are to act now. Our salvation, i.e. our life with God in eternity, is a sum of us doing our 100 % and God doing his 100 %. A part of our 100 % is to undergo child and youth catechesis, as some of you are doing right now. But also, as an adult deepening one’s understanding of how the Catholic Church carries God’s incarnation in Jesus Christ through time, as Jesus himself commissioned her to do, through her seven sacraments and her teaching. To things we do not understand or find difficult in the teaching of the Church, we do not answer by assuming we know better. But through prayer for the ability to understand, and through finding out more in order for it to happen.
Furthermore, we act by daily prayer, i.e. to talk and above all to listen to God, even if short. Prayer is not about what we do to God, but what we allow God to do to us: seeing ourselves and others with his eyes. Increasingly understanding our role in his drama. In large, with our life choices, and in small, with our everyday actions. And we act by receiving him into us through the sacraments. A life in the spiritual triangle of prayer, Sunday Mass attendance, no matter how it feels now and then, and sacramental participation, will allow more and more of him to act in and through us.
On another level, the parable of the steward also tells us how to act. It was common in Jesus’s time that people who lend money made their debtors confirming a debt that was higher than it in fact was. As a way to make profit without breaking the contemporary prohibition on interest. This, we heard the prophet Amos describe in the first reading, where those with property talking about “lowering the bushel … raising the shekel, by swindling and tampering with the scales”.
When the dishonest steward, with the job to collect debts for his boss, changes the bonds and reduces people’s debts, they suddenly reflect what people really owe his master. And so, the steward shows, as Jesus points out, he can be trusted with what is not his. Acting for our role in God’s kingdom, doing our 100 %, is about doing what is good and just. Not to be nice in a general sense, that is something one shall be regardless of faith. But for Jesus’s sake. I.e. through understanding whom, and like who, we are to serve. Even, and especially, when we risk our own honour and popularity. And not by beginning far away, but to change that, which is far away by beginning with that, which is near. Where in your everyday life are people treated unjustly? E.g. are bullied or excluded at school or the workplace? There you are called to act.
Jesus says that we cannot be the servants “both of God and of money”. The word for “money” used in the original gospel text is “mammon”, in Jesus’s mother tongue Aramaic a word also signifying “wealth” or even “welfare” in a broader sense. Jesus is not against wealth. But he warns to turn it into the goal of our life. If we do, we will treat everything and everybody – other persons, and even God and our faith – as instruments to achieve more of “mammon”. Regardless of it being money, gadgets, likes in social media, popularity before important persons, my own self-fulfilment etc.; but the behaviour indeed condemned by the prophet Amos in the first reading.
Amos ultimately warns against practicing the faith without any consequences for how one lives. Like e.g. leaving the church and still regarding one’s individual will and feelings superior to God’s commands. This is to reduce God to a factor for feelgood and treat the Church as she were a spa. Also this means to serve, be a slave of, “mammon”; in form of our own spiritual wellbeing without anything being done in and through our bodies, i.e. where and how we live.
We shall only act for our wellbeing in eternity. And then our most important insight is that God wants to help us, if we only allow him, to turn the truth and good Christ showed through his life and continuously shows through the Church, into our only goal. And to adjust all the rest to it. Not to stop loving or liking things. But to love and like everything and all through and for the sake of Christ. This is indeed, as put by our responsorial psalm today, to “see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living”. Beginning already here and now. Amen.