Posts Tagged ‘Homily’
Pontifical Household Preacher Comments on Sunday’s Readings
ROME, SEPT. 21, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of a commentary by the Pontifical Household preacher, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, on the readings from this Sunday’s liturgy.
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Make friends with wealth
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Amos 8:4-6; 1 Timothy 2:1-8; Luke 16:1-13
This Sunday’s Gospel presents us with a parable that in certain respects has important contemporary relevance: the parable of the dishonest steward. The central character of the parable is the farm manager of a landowner, a well-known figure in our Italian countryside when the sharecropping system was still in existence.
Like all good parables, this one is like a miniature play, full of movement and scene changes. The actors in the first scene are the steward and the master and the scene ends with the master firing the steward: “You can no longer be my steward.”
The steward does not even try to defend himself. His conscience is not clear. He knows that he is guilty of what the master has discovered.
The second scene is a soliloquy of the steward, who is now alone. He has not yet accepted defeat. He immediately thinks about what he can do to get himself out of this situation and save his future.
The third scene — steward and tenant farmers — reveals to us the plan that the steward has devised. He asks the tenants, “And how much do you owe?”
“One hundred measures of wheat,” is one reply.
“Here is your promissory note,” he says. “Take it and write down eighty.” A classic case of corruption and falsehood that makes us think of similar situations in our own society, often on a much larger scale.
The conclusion is disconcerting: “The master praised the dishonest steward for acting prudently.”
Is Jesus approving and encouraging corruption? We need to recall to our minds the particular nature of teaching in parables. The moral doctrine that is aimed at is not in the parable taken as a whole, in every detail, but only in that aspect of the parable that the narrator wishes to pick out.
And the idea that Jesus intended to bring out with this parable is clear. The master praises the steward for his resourcefulness and for nothing else. It is not said that the master changed his mind about his decision to fire the man.
Indeed, given the initial conduct of the master and the quickness with which he discovers the new scam we can easily imagine the outcome, which the parable does not report. After having praised the steward for his astuteness, the master orders him to immediately restore the fruit of his dishonest transactions or pay it off in prison if he lacks the means.
It is cleverness that Jesus also praises, outside the parable. In fact, he adds: “The children of this world are more clever in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.”
That man, when he was faced with an emergency situation in which his whole future was at stake, showed a capacity for radical decision-making and great resourcefulness. He acted quickly and intelligently — even if dishonestly — to save himself. This, Jesus observes to his disciples, is what you too must do, to save yourselves, not for a worldly future but for an eternal future.
“Life,” Seneca said, “is not given to anyone as a possession but as something that we are stewards of.” We are all “stewards,” so we have to act like the man in the parable. He did not put things off until tomorrow; he did not “sleep on it.” There is something too important at stake to be left to chance.
The Gospel itself makes different practical applications of this teaching of Christ. The one that it insists the most on is the one regarding the use of wealth and money: “I tell you, make friends with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”
In other words, do as that steward did; make friends with those who, when one day you find yourself in trouble, will welcome you. These friends, we know, are the poor.
We know this from what Christ says about his being the recipient of what we do for them. The poor, St. Augustine said, are, so to speak, our couriers and porters: They allow us to begin transferring our belongings now to the house that is being built for us in the hereafter.
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Equal and Different
Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
Proverbs 8:22-31; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15
The Gospel for the solemnity, drawn from Jesus’ farewell discourses, deals with three mysterious subjects which are inextricably united, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will lead you into the whole truth. … All that the Father has is mine” — the Son! Reflecting on these and similar texts the Church arrived at its faith in the Trinitarian God.
Many ask: But what is this puzzle of three who are one and one who are three? Would it not be easier to believe in a God who is just one, as the Muslims do? The answer is simple. The Church believes in the Trinity, not because it likes to complicate things, but because this truth has been revealed by Christ. The difficulty of understanding the mystery of the Trinity is an argument in favor of, and not against, its truth. No man left to himself would have ever come up with this mystery.
After the mystery has been revealed to us, we intuit that, if God exists, it can be no other way: one and three at the same time. There can only be love between two or more persons; if therefore “God is love,” there must be in God one who loves, one who is loved, and the love that unites them.
Christians are monotheists; they believe in a God who is one, but not solitary. Who would God love if he were absolutely alone? Perhaps himself? But then his love would not be really love, but rather egoism or narcissism.
I would like to consider the great and formidable teaching about life that comes to us from the Trinity. This mystery is the maximum affirmation that there can be both equality and diversity: equal in dignity but different in characteristics. And is this not the most important thing that we must learn if we are going to live well in this world? That we can be, that is, different by the color of our skin, because of culture, sex, race and religion, and yet enjoy equal dignity as human persons?
This teaching has its first and most natural field of application in the family. The family must be an earthly reflection of the Trinity. It is made up of persons of different sex (man and woman) and age (parents and children) with all the consequences that derive from these differences: different sentiments, different attitudes and tastes. The success of a marriage and a family depends on the measure by which this diversity knows how to tend toward a higher unity: unity of love, intentions and collaboration.
It is not true that a man and a woman must have the same temperament and gifts; that for them to agree, they must both be either cheerful, vivacious, extroverted and instinctive, or both introverted, quiet and reflective. Indeed we know what negative consequences can follow, even at the physical level, from marriage between relatives within a restricted circle.
Husband and wife do not have each to be the “better half” of the other in the sense of two halves perfectly equal, as an apple cut in two, but in the sense that one is the missing half of the other and the complement of the other. This was God’s intention when he said: “It is not good for man to be alone; I will make him a help similar to him” (Genesis 2:18). This all presupposes the strength to accept the difference of the other, which is the most difficult thing for us to do and in which only the most mature marriages succeed.
From this we also see how erroneous it is to consider the Trinity a mystery that is remote from our lives, one to be left to the speculation of theologians. On the contrary, it is a mystery that is very close to us. The reason is very simple: We were created in the image of the Trinitarian God, we bear this imprint and we are called to realize the same sublime synthesis of unity and diversity.