Homily 25th Sunday Ordinary Time Sept 18th 2016
The readings for today from the USCCB website are AM 8:4-7 PS 113:1-2, 4-6, 7-8 1 TM 2:1-8 LK 16:1-13
The Gospel is troubling as the Steward cheats his master and is rewarded. I never write out my homilies. My process starts on Sunday and I read the readings for the next weekend, Monday and maybe Tuesday. I just start praying with them and Wednesday we go through the readings with staff. If I don’t have a direction by Thursday I start reading commentaries or like for readings like today, I read the commentaries a bit earlier.
That said my homily develops each time I give it. Sometimes the first time is the best, sometimes the last, I never know. I do know that at this point in my life, that I am able to let go and let the Spirit guide me. Some days like today, what I think I am going to say and what comes out are very different.
Many people today asked for a copy, so here is my attempt to write what I preached this evening. This extra step will probably really change tomorrows message.
Last Sunday I was watching some mindless TV, don’t ask I will not tell, and the door bell rings. A priest friend was at the door. He enters and I say, “I hope you are not here for money”! My fiend laughed and wasn’t there for money, but lets say I don’t have nearly as much vodka as I did earlier that Sunday. He sits down and says, so what are you preaching one next weekend?
Knowing I had read the readings and knew that the main point was a dishonest steward being rewarded for his stealing. He offered to let me preach for him, but didn’t offer to take my masses. I joined in on the second drink, to be polite that is. As you know I rarely avoid the tough topics, but this week the Amos reading was looking more and more attractive and a Deacon mentioned that if I lost my voice that was his plan. Then Wednesday with the staff I realized that I had to deal with this reading and its implications, especially in today’s world.
Long time ago, in a diocese that none of you would ever connect me with a local priest that probably has been dead for 10 to 30 years now came to confession. He starts out that he wants me to hear is confession for two reasons. First he said I seemed like a good young priest and he felt his confession would be a cautionary tail and second he didn’t want to confess to a priest he knew. He confessed that he had stolen around $30,000 from the Church.
This was one of the senior iconic priests of the diocese I was visiting. I of course didn’t respond and he continued, it started with a quarter for the Coke Machine, then it was $5.00 for lunch than $100 to help parishioners or help with bills. It was never more than a hundred and at that rarely $100, but he added it up and he believed the total was around $30,000.
Who would ever fault you for a .25 for the parish Coke Machine? I was a very poor priest in a poor parish he said. He then said to me, no one would ever fault you for the .25, but that .25 changed me forever. I lost a bit of my integrity till I was ok on occasion taking $100. He told me, never cross that line, once you have crossed to is to easy to stay over there.
I remembered this guy reading these readings. In the time of Jesus there were not credit cards or ATMs. People either had a bunch of money or no money and those that had no money bartered things of value they produced for things others produced. The servant had no skill like that, he had been in his master’s care. His fate was sealed, he was getting fired and the option he had was to make deals at his masters expense. That was his only way to survive. The “praise” he gets is more like a back handed compliment, his fate was already sealed, he had crossed the line.
Like the priest, he probably started small and as he got away with it it grew until he lost his livelihood. We do that too. How many white lies have been told to ease a situation and only lead to bigger problems in the future? Once we tell one lie the second one is so much easier.
The first reading is at a time in Israels history where everything was going well. They had started to lose their need for God. They were crossing the line and Amos is calling them back before as we know the pendulum comes back and things are not as easy. The second reading is also calling them back to the straight and narrow, to the one mediator and the Truth.
Life would be much easier if we lived in a black and white world, we don’t. Just turn on the news and see all the tough choices people have to make. Today’s readings as a culmination of the previous weeks of readings are calling us to the straight and narrow path. Warning us that if we allow the gray of the world to permeate our souls, we lose. When it comes to that integrity of self, we have protect our integrity. We have to live the life God has called us to!
The world may be full of gray, but our faith isn’t, we are entrusted with the bright white light of Christ to be kept burning brightly from our baptism. We have that light to keep us from the darkness of sin. In this world, we have to be that light of Christ. We have to live with integrity, that is really all we have left in a world that has far too many shades of gray.
Be That light
With all the turmoil in this world, you have to leave here to day and be that light. We have our ministry fair, go and sign up for any of our ministries to help the Church be the light that this world is in dire need of.
Live with Integrity
We have many tough choices, we have to live beyond reproach. We have to be that pillar of truth. It only took a quarter for this priest to change his destiny, stay on the side of the light and protect your integrity at all costs. As I tell our kids, if you always tell the truth, you never have to remember the story you told, we have to also model that integrity for our kids to see it at work in our lives.