When Jesus taught, He asked listeners to transform their view of the world into His view of how the world is meant to be. He presented that shift in perspective through parables, stories and His example. It might be hard for us to understand the radical stance that Jesus took during His time, but He calls us to just the same radical change of mind and heart.
Most of us who have some religious background would claim that God is the creator of all things, and so all things belong to God. That is a great thought, but when it comes to practically applying that, we make excuses. Because we are so removed from the direct action of God creating the world, we have come to believe that much of God’s creation is ours to do with as we wish. We work hard, so we believe that we can do what we want with our possessions.
The radical shift that Jesus asks us to make in our perception of the world comes through the parable we hear on the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time. All that we have in our lives belongs to God. We have been entrusted with God’s possessions and are asked to use them to fulfill God’s will. We’re sometimes confused because we substitute our will for God’s; we need to acknowledge what is God’s will and commit ourselves to doing that with the possessions that have been entrusted to us.
It is God’s will that all will be one, and we also hear in the Scriptures that it is God’s will that not a single part of creation will be lost and all will be saved. That in itself is a radical shift from what most of us believe. Because of our separation from groups of people and the things of the earth, we have begun to believe that we are not responsible for others; they are of no value, and the world would be better without them. I am hoping that reading those words will help each of us see how far we have come from what God intends for us to do with His possessions.
If you trace God’s Word in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, there is no doubt that God has a special heart for the poor and the needy, the widow and the orphan, the alien and stranger. Those who live on the margins of society and are in great need have a special place in the heart of God. When Jesus was born, His mission was primarily for those who live on the margins and all of us who are sinners. While here on Earth, His choices and actions reflected the will of God. He brought groups together that would usually be separated. He expressed His love toward those who are hated and healing toward those who are excluded.
Almost every church and social institution has some special outreach to the poor at Thanksgiving and Christmas. We tend to be more generous during this time of the year than at other times — it’s as if we believe that the poor and needy only exist during these holiday seasons. We might even feel so proud of ourselves because of our generosity that we forget about the other 10 months of the year and the needs of others.
Can our acts of charity in November and December extend into the rest of the year? Can we make an effort to share the possessions that God has entrusted to us with those who are in need? How much time and energy do we spend with the poor and the stranger? How connected are we with the sick and the imprisoned? How often do we exercise mercy and peace toward our enemies and those who hate us? God’s wisdom is often set aside by us and replaced with our own.
Father Donald Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.