25th SUNDAY -C- September 22, 2019

Amos 8: 4-7; Psalm 113; I Timothy 2: 1-8; Luke 16: 1-13

by Jude Siciliano, OP

Dear Preachers:

WELCOME to the latest email recipients of "First Impressions," the Sisters of the Holy Family in Fremont, California.

Nothing gets our attention like a crisis. You’re driving a long listening to music, thinking about the family gathering you are going t,o when smoke starts billowing from under the car’s hood. Or, more seriously: you go for your usual annual physical and the chest X-Ray reveals a dark spot on your lung; you feel a tightness in your chest and your left arm begins to tingle; it’s 3 am and your phone wakes you, it’s your sobbing son or daughter; your company downsizes and you lose your job; you get injured on the playing field and there goes your hopes for an athletic scholarship; even more distressing....the sudden death of someone you love.

At a crisis moment every thing else takes a back seat, while we address the pressing issue at hand. We ask ourselves: "Now what will I do?" "Do I have to handle this alone?" "Where can I turn for help?" "What do I need to do before this day ends?"

If we have our wits about us, or someone is with us to give us good counsel, we evaluate the situation; look over our physical and emotional resources and try to respond as best we can. Because we are people of faith, we surely pray for wisdom to know what we must do and the strength to do it. (Someone asked a friend of mine, "What is the simplest and best prayer?" And she responded, "Oh that’s easy.......HELP!")

Nothing focuses us like a crisis, when we realize the pattern of our accustomed lives has been changed for good and without our consent!

An economic crisis, as many are experiencing these days because of the trade war, can profoundly affect our lives. It was an economic crisis that faced the steward/manager in today’s gospel. He was caught, we are told, for squandering his master’s property. We are not told how...or what he did.... Perhaps he was a thief. Perhaps, he was just incompetent. We don’t know. But it was crisis time for that steward. And we know there is nothing like a crisis to make us focus on essentials and what’s right before our eyes.

Steve Covey wrote a best seller: "7 Habits of Highly Effective People."

It sold to a lot of people dealing with professional problems – managers and executives. But it became a best seller. A a lot of other people were drawn to it, because of what the title suggested. They wanted to be, "highly effective people" in their daily lives The very first habit Covey lists of highly effective people, would fit the steward in today’s parable story. Highly effective people, he advises, must "Be proactive, take the initiative and be responsible." That’s our steward isn’t it?

He sees his job is about to end and he is in crisis. In a desperately poor society laborers were a throw-away commodity, easily replaced by other desperate laborers, if they got hurt, or killed on the job. The steward admits, being a laborer is not an option for him...he’s too soft. To go out on the streets and beg would shame him and his family. Yes, he is in a crisis.

So, as Steve Covey suggests, he becomes PROACTIVE, TAKES THE INITIATE AND ACT RESPONSIBLY. We heard what he did. While he was still in his position as steward he discounted debts owed his master. Sounds dishonest, doesn’t it? But what he probably did was eliminate the commission due him from those debts. And in doing that, he was making friends – those debtors would be grateful to him and, he hoped, when he was dismissed, they would, "welcome me into their home."

In case we missed what Jesus was suggesting, he says, "For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of the light" That‘s what Jesus calls us: "The children of the light!" He gives us an example of a man who has a crisis, focuses on what he has to do and does it. And then, it is as if Jesus is turning to each one of us who have heard this story and says: "And what about you? Are you acting prudently in your life – focusing on what and who are important? Or, are you letting lesser concerns consume your best energies?"

Jesus isn’t telling us a parable about a shrewd business-minded person as a lesson on how to be "highly effective people" at work. Rather, he wants us to be, in Steve Covey’s terms, his "proactive followers" – disciples who take the initiative and act responsibly in our relationships with him and the world around us.

This is something we know: The world is a hard place to be a Christian – raising a family is a balancing act; our jobs can demand so much from us, and consume our best energies; relationships can get neglected and become stagnant. Plus, with all that, it’s hard to keep a balance and keep things focused on what is really important and what’s the "small stuff."

Being a follower of Jesus is not a part time job, or a side occupation – it is a full time commitment and covers all aspects of our lives, not just what we commonly call our "spiritual lives." We have to live in our world and have to evaluate the resources at our disposal. How can we be creative in the use of what we have? Upon hearing the challenge of today’s gospel, to be faithful in all parts of our lives, we have to ask ourselves: What is my fundamental and total identity: is it being a Christian? Then, how can I put that into practice at all times and in all places?

At some moment we will all face a crisis of one kind or another. Most of us know that already... from personal experience. We don’t want to have to put off getting focused till a crisis forces us to do so. We want to be "proactive, take the initiative and act responsibly. It is our hope that at the end, Jesus will also find our lives commendable and bless us for acting prudently – not just when we were in crisis, but each day of our lives.

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings: