September 22/23, 2007

25th Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle C
Amos. 8:4-7
Ps. 113 1Tm. 2:1-7
Lk. 16:1-13 or 16:10-13

The Wicked/Dishonest Manager or Security and Trustworthiness in Managering Our Talents

My theme this weekend is “The Wicked Manager” or “Security and Trustworthiness in managing our talents.” No one gives us better example than St. Paul. Writing to Timothy 2:7, Paul states, “I am telling the truth; I am not lying.” I an just wondering how many of us would be as bold to speak or manage the talents God has given us as Paul tells us to review how we have been managing all the talents God has given us. How many of us can boldly say, “I am not lying, but telling the truth” about how best we manage God’s affairs; that we are not lying when we tell others that we believe in God.

Our world today forces us to see success in business or achievements as absolute ownership; it forces us to desire for more, regardless of the rights and needs of others – including the plight of the poor and the weak, the marginalized and the vulnerable. In this instance, the Prophet Amos warns us never to distance ourselves from the plight of the weak, the vulnerable, the wounded, the divorced, those who suffer silently from all kinds of ailments. The world tells us to find security and trustworthiness in success and achievement, wealth, position, status etc. We now have the tendency to work harder for earthly rewards that last a few years than for heavenly rewards that last forever. Yet, we do know that our true security or trustworthiness is found in God alone!

In the first reading, the prophet Amos [of Tekoa, 750 B.C.E.] draws our attention to the importance of Social Justice, the prevalence of social injustices, the disrespect for the rights and needs of others, the degradation of equality and dignity of each human person etc. The prophet cautions us to uphold the ultimate value of our neighbours against those flimsy values that commercial and media impose upon us. In fact, Amos sounds a warning gong that if we cheat the needy, the poor, the weak, the marginalized, the vulnerable etc in anyway; if we become indifferent to their difficult situations, we bring upon ourselves the judgement of the Lord.

Referring to the wisdom of Amos in the first reading, Jesus applies the story of the dishonest manager to denounce any form of dishonesty with our talents. Like Amos, Jesus is warning us that any mismanagement of our talents may endanger our genuine search for that eternity with God as well as improving the living condition of our neighbours.

The parable of the wicked manager challenges us to act as boldly as we should when we are confronted with issues about God and morality. It challenges us not to be lukewarm in our fidelity to God; it challenges us not to be lukewarm in our responsibility to the poor, the weak, the vulnerable, and the marginalized; it challenges us not to be lukewarm in sharing the riches of the earth with all. After all, all that we possess is but on loan from God. Upon this belief, we are not to serve wealth and fame but rather serve God and our neighbour in good conscience.

Unfortunately, we live in an age of government cutbacks and corporate downsizing, [e.g. the merging of major banks, the effects of IMF and the World Bank on developing countries, and the treatment of the powerful over the weak]. All of this translates into tougher times for the poor and the weak in societies. The United Nations (UN) reports that developing countries paid $200 billion US dollars to service their loans to developed nations. Some argue the debt has been paid over and over again and should be cancelled; others argue the debt should stay because the developing nations are lazy. We forget all our fruits etc come from them and that we live off the vulnerability of the poor, or that if the 200Billion US dollars stayed with them, they too could build better schools and better educations systems, free education to Grade 12 as we have here; that they too could create better infrastructures for their people.

What is our reaction – as a Christian community to the treatment to the poor, the weak, the needy and the marginalized? As Parish and parishioners, as community and individuals, our faith calls us to stand up against all causes and forms of poverty, injustices and inequality against the poor and needy, the weak, the vulnerable, the marginalised etc. Our faith challenges us to give of our time and resources, to uphold human dignity, and not exploit it. Yes, we have Social Services like St. Vincent de Paul Society, Caritas, Soup Kitchens, Food Banks, clothing drives [Blue Mantle, Value Village] and shelter for street people etc., but these in themselves are not enough unless we genuinely help to erase the causes of poverty and challenge the attitudes of corporations or the powerful who perpetuate the continuous existence in all societies.

Let us recall that Christ himself shared his very self with the poor among humanity, which includes you and me. How can we therefore say we believe in God if we refuse to sacrifice anything for him or our neighbour? Our sacrifice is to open our ears to the gospel even when we would rather not listen to it, because it challenges our conscience. Our sacrifice is to open our minds to the gospel even when we would rather not think about it, because it disturbs us more than we want to be disturbed. Our sacrifice is that we put the gospel message into practice even when we would rather not act on it, because it means changing the life style, we would rather not change.

Take as example how athletes, boxers, tennis, hockey, baseball, softball, basketball, volleyball and soccer players sacrifice and discipline themselves just to win worldly rewards or awards that are perishable. Muslims sacrifice anything for the spread of Islam. Those who cheat and steal arm themselves, and even terrorists do whatever it takes to gain attention [Terrorists’ attack on the World Trade Centre, New York, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan etc]. What are we doing to make the gospel message attractive? What are we doing to make the world realize that security is in God alone and not in our own might – including finding security in the wealth [riches, talents etc] that we have accumulated or military might?

In essence, the message of the wicked manager is that goodness, kindness and gentleness towards others bring us security in God, not might or the wealth we have accumulated. We know that no amount of can buy happiness, love, respect etc. We know all too well that things don’t make us happy; people do! We earn respect. We work hard to earn the love and respect of our loved ones – spouse, parents, children, siblings, boy friend or girl friend, co-workers, employers etc. But concretely, it is only by possessing God and being possessed by God that we find true inner happiness.

To this reality, today’s gospel points out that we cannot serve God and wealth! The issue now is” “Who and what is our God?” If God, how honest are we with him? Moreover, if we are honest to God, with others and our very selves, how is it that we pay our labourers unjust wages and write laws that justify our pitiful actions? How is it that we pollute rivers and pass ordinances that allow that practice? How is it that we dilute products and block any legislation against it? If we are just managers to all that God has given us, how is it that we have become indifferent to whatever happens to God’s goodness - including the poor and the weak, the needy, the vulnerable, the marginalized, the divorced, the separated etc?

So what does the parable of the wicked manager mean to you? I would tell you mind and hopefully you can come up with something of your own. For me, today’s gospel message is:

That we bring peace to those who are disturbed cheated, hurt, wounded or broken.
That we bring happiness to those who are poor and sad, weak, vulnerable or marginalized.
That we bring the light of the gospel to those locked up in darkness – either by self-infliction or by outside powers or influence.
That we witness to make scripture message alive and active in our daily lives and encounters with our neighbours, parents, siblings, relatives, friends, co-workers and so forth.
That we apply our intelligence to bring eternal life and happiness to all peoples on earth
That we become resourceful and dedicated to God as we apply intelligence to safeguard our future through acquisition of wealth and position or status; that by the same intelligence, we would make God Presence felt by all peoples around the world
That when we walk into places others could see the light of Christ flowing from us to them.
I am hopeful that you and I are truly ready to bear the challenge to be honest managers of the talents God has given us. If we are, then, we must recognize it our duty and obligation to care and to share our material and spiritual riches with all. It is in this management of sharing and caring that we give meaning to Jesus’ ministry of salvation to all humanity. I pray that our participation in this Eucharist make us individuals who are conscious and willing to manage our talents so that all humanity may find security in God alone.

 

Father John-Baptist Okai
Priest Moderator
St. Cecilia Parish, Regina SK Canada

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