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I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW | Invest the gifts of God wisely

‘You cannot serve both God and mammon.’

The readings for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time remind me of a passage from Hebrews 13:14. “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the one that is to come.”

We are created to know, love and serve God and thereby gain heaven. When we give ourselves less than God in our thoughts or actions, we are distracted, frustrated and we lose our clarity of focus. Something within us feels betrayed. The future that God has in store for us seems distant and unattainable.

God has placed within us spiritual sensors, which help guide us in our behavior — the Fifts of the Holy Spirit. When we continually ignore the Holy Spirit, we are headed for disaster. It’s similar to the warning lights on the car dashboard. If the oil light comes on and we continue to drive, the engine will malfunction and we won’t reach our destination.

In the first reading, Amos gives us a stern warning. “Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land! ‘When will the new moon be over,’ you ask, ‘that we may sell our grain, and the sabbath, that we may display the wheat? We will diminish the ephah, add to the shekel, and fix our scales for cheating!’” The Lord responds to this, “The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Never will I forget a thing they have done!”

What Amos really tells them is that they are becoming materially prosperous at the price of their own souls. Amos has the hope that they will reflect on his words, repent and save their souls.

At the heart of the second reading, and perhaps at the heart of all three readings, is the following statement: “For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all.”

God, in His mercy, created a way for sinful man to reach the holiness of God, and that is through our mediator with God, Jesus Christ.

This is the key to helping us to understand the Gospel in a new light. When the unjust steward is tagged by the owner for squandering the owner’s property, he loses his job.

However, before he returns everything to the owner, he rewrites the debts owed to the master of the property. It may be that he is simply cancelling his own take of the loan, or it may be that he reduces the debts by removing unjust profits the master was to receive. We don’t know the answer.

When the early Christian scholar Origen interprets this parable, he looks at it in a figurative way. Christ, by His death and resurrection, has rewritten our documents of sin. Therefore, we should not rewrite what God has blotted out. By God’s Holy Spirit through Christ’s death and resurrection, and through the grace of baptism, our sins have been washed away.

We should never doubt this, and we should never turn against ourselves because of our past sins. God’s mercy is greater than our sins. We walk in faith, humility, trust, and gratitude. Jesus doesn’t praise the unjust steward for his sin, but rather for his foresight in providing for a decent future.

It’s obvious that Jesus teaches in this parable that we should look wisely at the gifts that God has lent to us. They do not belong to us but are on loan to us. We are to invest them wisely.

You have often heard it said: “You cannot take it with you, but you can send it ahead.” What we give to the poor remains ours. What we invest in promoting the Gospel causes remains ours, even while it builds up the kingdom of God.

Good stewardship is simply investing our time, talents and treasures in the kingdom of God. Perhaps the greatest gift may not be what the gift does for the kingdom outside of us but for what it does for the kingdom within.

The more we give away the treasures of our labors, talents and time, the more we belong to God. The more we belong to God, the more we spontaneously find ourselves desiring virtues that bring us closer to our neighbor and to our God.

For example, when we give ourselves to prayer, we take ourselves away from earthly attachments and find ourselves with desires and opportunities to do godly things. This desire comes from the God within us. He is giving us back to the God from whom we came.

Because of the joy that was set before Jesus, He willingly endured the cross. The more the martyrs embraced their sufferings, the more they realized that this is already participating in the glory about to envelop them. That is what prompted St. Ignatius of Antioch to entice the lions so that they would devour him more quickly and deliver him into the Kingdom.

How do I apply all of this to my life? It’s very simple. Each present moment is a manifestation of God’s will. When I embrace the present moment as a manifestation of God’s will, I am filled with the peace of God.

Do you realize that God is present to you in every moment of the day? St. Paul was aware that when he was shipwrecked, God was there. When he spent a day and a night adrift on the sea, God was there. When Paul was stoned at Iconium, he was aware that God was there.

God is with you right now. Remember Jesus said: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.”

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