St. Edward on the Lake, Lakeport, MI | DOWNLOAD AUDIO
September 18, 2016
Am 8:4-7; 1 Tim 2:1-8; Lk 16:1-13
Today, we have a simple and very important message before us because the readings are all about the choices we make in life. Jesus says, “No servant can be the slave of two masters.” First interesting thing about this statement is that Jesus doesn’t give a third alternative. There are only two paths in life – the one that leads closer to Christ and the one that leads away from Him. In other words, when it comes to Christ, we cannot be neutral. Either we live selfishly, or we live for Christ. If we live selfishly, we actually contribute to a culture of selfishness, and accept a culture that holds money and material possessions as gods. If we live for Christ, on the other hand, we live to help build up His Kingdom on Earth. Those who think that they are simply neutral are only fooling themselves.
At the same time, Jesus reminds us that we don’t make this choice just once. Every day, in small matters and great ones, God gives us chances to exercise our love for Him, or our love for self. The Christian life consists in an ongoing series of decisions in which we reinforce or undermine our basic choice to follow Christ. To illustrate this point, Jesus shows us that we are just like the steward in the parable.
To some degree, we are like the unjust steward who squandered the gifts and opportunities that were given to him. The master was unhappy, and so he was ready to dismiss him. And so he goes about trying to regain the advantage. Our Lord compliments him not for being dishonest, but for being shrewd (clever, proactive). His point: we need to be just as proactive in putting ourselves in a good position to receive the gift of eternal life. Because sooner or later, we will have to give an account of our lives and what we’ve done with what God has given to us. And if we squander the gifts and opportunities that we’ve been given, then we too will be dismissed from God’s service. So the question is: what are we going to do with the opportunities that God has given to us? Will we choose to put our lives and talents at the service of God’s Kingdom, or will we use them to serve only ourselves?
I was recently introduced to the story of the Martyrs of Compiegne – sixteen Carmelite nuns who were faced with the ultimate decision of choosing Christ or themselves. These religious sisters lived during the time of the French Revolution. At the start of the Revolution, they were pressed to abandon their vocation and join the New France. But the sisters chose to continue serving Christ. This, of course, angered the revolutionaries, so their convent was forcibly shut down. The nuns were forbidden to live in community or wear a habit. Somehow, however, they still managed to come together for prayer, during which they continued to offer themselves to God. They were discovered, arrested, and imprisoned. Towards the end of the Reign of Terror, the entire community was condemned to death. They were loaded onto a cart and brought to the guillotine. On the way they sang the Veni Creator, the same ancient hymn sung whenever a young woman professes her vows in the Carmelite Order. And as they were executed one by one, the only sound that could be heard was the sisters singing the Salve Regina, a hymn to Mary. Two days later, the Reign of Terror came to an end. These courageous women had chances to abandon their faith and preserve their lives, but they chose to faithfully serve only Christ, and now they enjoy eternal happiness with Him.
Like these holy women, we too often face pressure to abandon Christ and live selfishly. This pressure comes from our culture, our government, perhaps even from someone in our family or circle of friends. It can come even from ourselves. Who are we going to choose to serve? You know, our country was founded upon Christian principles, and there were times in our history when popular culture actually helped people to be true to their Christian mission. We don’t live in a period like that anymore. That means it’s up to us. We have to make a conscious effort to live Christ-centered lives. We have to choose to live for Christ. And we have to be ready to make that choice over and over and over again. Even the small choices we make each day can either draw us closer to Christ or push us away from Him.
These are the truths that we teach our young people here in our school and in our Religious Education program. It is our teachers and catechists who make many sacrifices to make sure that this gets done. And on this Catechetical Sunday, we honor them for their work in teaching the truths of our faith to our young people and encouraging them to live for Christ. This is not an easy task, but it is an important one. The salvation of our young people depends on them receiving the gift of faith and having it handed down to them.
First, from their parents. Our teachers and catechists are not the first teachers of the faith. I am not the first teacher of the faith. Parents are the first teachers of the faith to their children. They are the first catechists and teachers. But I and our teachers and catechists are here to support them. That’s why in addition to honoring them, we pray for them and ask for God’s blessings upon them, that they might be good examples of the faith to our young people that they may one day receive the gift of salvation.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all called to live up to our faith by devoting ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord and His ways. Our Christian faith is more than just a list of beliefs; it is what allows us to live in the way that God wants us to live. Today, let’s ask Christ to strengthen our faith, that each and every one of us may become true children of our God, and all who see us may know that we truly belong to Him