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Investing for Eternal life

Homily for 25th Sunday in Ordinary time year C 2013

dishonest stewardFor a few months now, I have been encouraging my parishioners to give me their Australian 5 cents coins. I heard from many of them that they have accumulated this loose change and not using them for anything. So I told them to give it to me because for 20 pieces of 5 cents could buy already a kilo of rice in the Philippines and that can feed a family of 3 for a day. I am amazed of the response and of the generosity of the people. At the moment we have gathered more than $300.00 out of those donations. I’m so thankful to God for those gifts because through these we can help feed and support some poor families back in the Philippines. It is not much but because it is given heartily it means so much.

However, for a few months now, I am angered by this terrible news of corruption and plundering people’s money by some Philippine politicians. Apparently, P10 billion pesos, supposedly to be used as a Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), was being plundered by some of these influential political figures in connivance with a certain businesswoman, by giving those money to several ‘Ghost’ NGO’s, i.e. organizations that don’t even exist at all. This means that all those money have been divided by these people involved and have been used to satisfy their personal and selfish interests.

It really saddened and upset me because here I am, trying to help my fellow Filipinos on ways I can, like collecting and sending used goods, or collecting your five cents coins just to help a little bit the poor and struggling families in the rural areas of Cebu, while these aforementioned politicians were taking billions of pesos and put it in their own pockets to feed up their greed and selfish interests. It is just a terrible thing to see how blinded they were by the pile of money.

No wonder Jesus described money as ‘that tainted thing’ as we heard in our gospel today. By this, he means that money has the power to corrupt us. It has the power to blind our eyes from the needs of our neighbours.

But 700 years before Christ, Prophet Amos had also noticed this corrupting power that money had for some traders in the Northern Kingdom where he preached in 760 B.C. As we heard in our first reading, the situation that Prophet Amos faced was that people were so caught up with piling up big profits by exploiting and exercising power and influence over the poor  and the marginalized. The power of money enslaved them that they could only pay a lip service to God because their hearts are from it. In fact, their desire for more money and more profit motivated them to even try getting out of their obligations to the law, to God and to their faith. This is evident when they expressed their complaint saying: ‘When will the new moon be over so that we can sell our corn…by lowering the bushel (the measuring cup) and raising the shekel (the price)…and tampering the scales? See, in the Jewish Law, during the New Moon they can only sell their things or produce according to the right and just price. They can’t  tamper the scales or cheat in the measuring cup. This means low income and small profit if any. Another thing is the Sabbath. On the Sabbath they are not allowed to work, so they couldn’t go on selling their stuff in the market places, thus there’s no income. Because of their desire for more and greed in their hearts they were wishing to get away with the Sabbath and with the New moon, i.e. to get away with their obligation to the faith and to God. Here again, Jesus is right in saying, we cannot serve both God and money.

But thank be to Jesus who assures us and keeps on reminding us that we have the power over money, not the other way around. In effect, Jesus is saying: ‘Use money to make friends, don’t get it wrong by using your friends to make money.’ In the gospel He is showing us that money or resources or wealth we have are meant for us to be used carefully, honestly and responsibly, and in fact to be used as an investment to secure eternal life. We are to learn from the ‘clever’ and the ‘cunning’ way that the dishonest steward  used to secure his future. But this doesn’t mean we are to steal someone’s money or usurp or plunder the money of the people, and be clever enough not to be caught. According Francis Moloney, a Salesian priest we need to look deeper and farther not only for our immediate future but also for the ultimate future we all long to enjoy- the eternal life with God. Fr Moloney wrote: ‘If such cunning can be used to ensure the life of a steward in his administration of the things of this world, how much more should we, who have been called to share in the treasures of the kingdom, commit ourselves to the administration of its inestimable treasures.[1]

So how can we invest our money for eternal life?

One. Prophet Amos (Amos 8:4-7) would offer us one way as can be reflected from our First reading today and that is to consider the poor and to be generous to the needy. We are to remember that we can’t take money with us when we die, but we can use it now (responsibly and honestly) to help us prepare for the life to come.

Two. Jesus in our gospel (Lk 16:1-13)  also offers another way by saying: ‘Use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity.’ Here, Jesus urges us to venture into real and personal human relationships. Money doesn’t last forever, but relationships continue and linger. But Jesus here makes some qualifications as to what sort of friends we are to make- and that they should be the ones who ‘will welcome you into the tents of eternity.’ This means we are to look for friends who lead us to Jesus, one who walks with us in our Christian journey, and who stays by us no matter what the circumstances are. We need a friend or friends like those friends of the paralytic man in the Gospel who upon finding no way to get into the house where Jesus was, took him up to the roof, removed the roof above Jesus, and lowered their friend down for Jesus to see and to heal him (Mk 2:1-12). This is a kind of friend we need to have- one who takes the risk, and takes the initiative too for us to be closer to Jesus. And we also need to be this sort of a friend. This then calls us to assess ourselves: What sort of friends we have and what sort of a friend we are?

Three. St Paul in our Second Reading today also offers us another way, not mainly about using our money, but to invest our time responsibly by sanctifying our day and our life through prayer…i.e. ‘prayers offered for everyone- petitions, intercessions and thanksgiving- AND especially for kings and others in authority…so that we may be able to live a religious and reverent lives in peace and quiet’ (1 Tim 2:1-8.) In constant prayer, we are nourishing our relationship with God, and thus allowing him to be our life, source of strength and power everyday. Indeed, prayers help us to see our real priorities, and enable us to see clearly the real use of our resources especially our time, our talent and our treasures.

So we continue our celebration of the mass today, let us ask ourselves: How responsible are we in taking care of the resources especially money that God has given us? We still have time to correct ourselves if we have been dishonest, irresponsible and wasteful- and the time is NOW.

[1] Francis Moloney, SDB, ‘This is the Gospel of the Lord’ 25th Sunday of the year C

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