Good and generous stewards - Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > Good and generous stewards - Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

The readings today invite us to reflect upon our attitude towards money. This is always a good thing to do, even if it is a little uncomfortable. When one reads the Gospels it is striking how often the Lord returns to the question of the use of earthly possessions. Clearly in the mind of Jesus our attitude to the use of money and worldly possessions was an important issue. Very simply it has a big influence on how we respond to his message.

The Lord returns to this theme often because it is an area that requires a personal conversion.

Jesus spoke constantly of the Kingdom of Heaven. He urged his listeners to put their hope there and not on earthly things. In one sense the call to test our heart on the matter of our attitude to and use of money is vital to see just how much we have oriented our lives towards God’s kingdom, and away from a focus on earthly things.

The Lord spoke often about the dangers of possessions. He saw them as a serious threat to the spiritual orientation of our life. Thus, for example, his comment after the rich young man walked away was, “How hard it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Mt 19:23)

In the parable about the man building bigger barns Jesus warns us that amassing vast riches endangers eternal life. We place our security in possessions. We become comfortable when we have much and do not think about our eternal salvation.

In another parable Jesus spoke of the indifference of the rich man feasting when the poor man Lazarus was at his gate. Here the Lord is warning us that enjoying the good things of life can lead to a selfishness that blinds us to the needs of others. 

In the beatitudes the Lord said that the poor are the ones who will be blessed. Jesus in pointing to a truth here. He is reminding us that when we sense our own poverty and need we look to God; we rely upon God. This becomes a source of blessing as we embrace life under the protection and guidance of God.

There are two particular teachings of the Lord which emerge from the Gospel reading today. The first is whether we can be trusted with money – this is the teaching which flows from the parable of the rich man’s steward.

The second is the well-known teaching of the Lord: “You cannot be a slave both of God and of money.”

Let us reflect on the question of whether we can be trusted with money. The parable of the unjust steward may be confusing. It seems that Jesus is praising dishonesty. It is when the parable speaks of the worldly person being more astute than the children of light that we can find a meaning. Jesus is saying that people in the world are often far more shrewd than people of faith.

The question that the parable poses concerns our attitude towards the use of money. Can we be trusted with money? Here the question is not the skill of our financial dealings, but are we using money wisely so that it benefits and does not inhibit our spiritual life.

I would like to offer two thoughts. The first is to view our use of money as being stewards rather than owners of what we possess. The servant of the rich man in the Gospel today is called a steward. What is a steward? It means that the possessions belong to the master and the steward is responsible to ensure their proper use. We note that the master entrusts his affairs to the steward.

In a similar way we can say that God has entrusted the goods of the earth to humanity. This is clearly indicated in the Book of Genesis. As we benefit from what is entrusted to us, we can see that we have a certain responsibility to use wisely what is given to us on trust.

This governs, for example, our attitude to ecology as Pope Francis outlines in his encyclical letter, Laudato Si. The earth is given to us to use, but to use on trust. In other words, to use wisely and responsibly, thinking not just of ourselves but of future generations.

Thus it is with money. When we have an understanding that what we own has been entrusted to us, we then begin to consider how we can use what we have for the good of others. It helps free us from the sense that it is ours and we can do with it as we want. We ask ourselves how we can better use what we have to the benefit of others.
The Lord is quick to remind us that it is easy for us to cling to our wealth and this becomes a serious blockage to our faith. We rely on our possessions for security and not on God. We must put our trust in God and not in our wealth, the Lord teaches.

The Lord urges us in the Gospels to be rich in good deeds, rather than in possessions. Thus, we use our possessions to do good.

The second thought I offer is that we have an attitude of gratitude to God for what we possess. After all, as the Scriptures attest, everything ultimately comes from the hand of God. Gratitude acknowledges that we have been blessed by what we have. A sense of gratitude readily moves to a spirit of generosity. Gratitude allows us to have a certain freedom of spirit in relation to our possessions. This is the way in which we can avoid becoming slaves of money.

Our gratitude to God for what we have enables us to a freedom to be generous.

Today as we reflect upon our attitude to money and possessions we can consider two attitudes: that we are stewards and not owners; and that gratitude leads to generosity.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Sunday, 22 September 2019