19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Previous Years: Apparently, this is my first time preaching on these readings.
Preached at Assumption Parish in Bellingham, WA
Well, I had something of an insight during the 8 a.m. Mass about this gospel that I’d like to share. So you get a little mini homily before you get the full homily. You’re welcome. In, Matthew, we have a declaration of the Petrine primacy. So Jesus asks his apostles, “Who do people say that I am?” They give him answers. Peter eventually says, “You are the Christ, son of the living God.” And Jesus says, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.” So our church has always seen that moment as Jesus elevating Peter as the head of the College of Bishops, as the one entrusted with the foundation of the church, that foundation of faith, in a sense. So that only exists in Matthew. In a sense, this is Luke’s version of that. Jesus gives a parable that applies to all Christians. Be prepared. Be a faithful servant. And then Peter says, Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone? And Jesus, because he’s annoying, doesn’t answer the question directly. It’s just what he does. And he never seems to answer questions directly. He gives instead another parable. But that parable is an answer to the question. So Peter is asking, Is this for us or for everyone? And Jesus essentially gives them a parable that is just for them, just for the apostles, and he gives it to Peter as kind of the first among the apostles.
And what does he say? Who then is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants? The other parables were talking about servants. That’s every Christian: servants of the Lord, those who follow the Lord and serve God. But now we have a steward, sort of the chief servant, the one put in charge of the entire household on behalf of the master. And so Peter’s asking, is this for us? And Jesus says, who then is the faithful and prudent steward; in a sense, challenging Peter to be the faithful, prudent steward. And what does the steward do whom the master will put in charge of his servants? Distribute the food allowance at the proper time. The food allowance is the faith. It is the graces entrusted to the Church. It is scripture and tradition. The faithful and prudent steward is the one who brings to us the faith, who feeds the servants of the master. The master gives the steward all of his resources so the steward can use those for the sake of the family of faith. And of course, this applies to Peter and to his successors, to the popes, but it applies to every bishop and ultimately everyone who holds ecclesiastical office. It is our job to provide for the family of God, the household of faith, the food that has been given to us, the teachings and the graces and the sacraments. Blessed is that servant whom his master finds on arrival doing so. But if that servant says to himself, my master is delayed in coming and begins to beat the men’s servants and the maid servants… How many times have we experienced popes, bishops, clergy beating the men servants of the maid servants as Jesus charges the Pharisees, building up the requirements, putting all of these burdens on their shoulders without lifting a finger to help them? This is a charge for the clergy to be aware, to make sure that we do not misuse our office. And we’ve been put in charge of the household of faith. We cannot use it to lord our power over other people. It is not about power. It is about service. Service to the household of God. Who eats and drinks and gets drunk? Clergy who use their office for their own self enrichment to fulfill their own needs rather than out of service. Then that servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour, and will punish the servant severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful. We haven’t heard anything about the faithful in these parables. This is a new word in the parable. Where does this come from? What is going on? Essentially, Jesus removes the veil from the parable and talks about that what he’s really talking about is the family of faith. If the clergy abuse their office, if they are not good and prudent stewards, bringing to the household of the faith the food entrusted to them, then they will be counted among the unfaithful. The Lord will look upon them at the end of time and say, I do not know you, which is what he does with the unfaithful.
This gospel is something to reflect on as you hopefully pray for the Pope, the bishops, and your priests. We need it because the charge for us is something that’s really scary.
Now the rest of the homily. Due to my parents’ divorce was when I was in fourth grade, I have an odd relationship with responsibility. I feel compelled to seek out responsibility. If something needs done, then I need to do it. Because who else is going to do it if I don’t do it? So I feel compelled to take responsibility for everything that’s put in front of me. And yet I also resent responsibility. My parents’ divorce caused me to grow up a little bit too fast, and so I took responsibility for things as we moved households and my mother became a single mother and all of these sorts of things. I took responsibility, but I also associated it with an early end to my childhood. And so there’s a craving for responsibility, a compulsion toward responsibility, and also a resentment of responsibility. I’m a psychological mess. Well, this comes to a head in a couple of ways. First. The hardest question I’ve ever been asked by anyone in my entire life was, why did you have to do that thing? I was a hospital chaplain and there was a door handle that was loose. So I took out my screwdriver and I tightened the screw and I was like a minute or two late to my next meeting and my supervisor said, Why was that your job? Why couldn’t you have just called somebody or gotten the maintenance facilities guys on it or whatever else? Why did you have to do it? It’s the hardest question I’ve ever been asked because I didn’t have an answer.I just knew I was compelled to.
Well, anyway, imagine now this psychological mess becomes a pastor of a parish. And imagine there’s a global pandemic. And imagine we’re trying to come out of that global pandemic, but our people haven’t fully returned yet. Let’s put you in June 2021. So we’re basically beyond the every other week attendance at mass. We’re basically beyond the shutdown. We are trying to get parish programs up again, and yet our community is not fully restored. Plus, for my own fault, I made some changes to staff responsibilities, so certain things were falling through the cracks in the transition. And I had to kind of step in and do some things while they were getting comfortable to the new roles. And so June 2021, I felt like there was a lot of stuff on my shoulders and I was resentful. I was going to the Lord and saying, Lord, why do I have to be the one to do this thing or that thing? Why can’t it just be community responsibility? Where are the people? How do we do this? I had taken upon myself and felt compelled to take upon myself all of this responsibility. And I resented it. And I brought it to the Lord over and over and over again. And I brought it into my retreat that June.
By the end of the retreat, the Lord had put on my heart that my true desire was simply to wake up every morning and say Yes. I love and loved being a priest. I love the jobs of a priest. I don’t resent doing what the Lord has asked me to do as a priest. I find incredible grace in celebrating the sacraments and walking with people. Absolutely. I see the Lord working all the time every day, so that’s not what I wanted to avoid. What went wrong is that I took upon myself the Lord’s responsibility. I had answered the question, “Why do you have to be the one to do it?” with “Well, I just do. It’s my job.” The Lord is the one who is in charge of his Church. He’s the one who’s in charge of this parish. He’s the one who is going to ensure we have enough volunteers. He’s going to be the one that inspires new charisms in our midst. He’s the one who is in charge. And what he told me was that my job wasn’t to be in charge and take responsibility, although from time to time that is a responsibility he gives me. I have to make certain decisions. My job is to wake up every morning and be faithful. I wake up every morning and say yes to whatever he’s put in my life. Sometimes that’s just say Masses, hear confessions, and anoint the sick. Sometimes it’s administrative responsibility. Sometimes it’s somebody who just drops into my office unexpectedly and I have to drop everything and take care of that person. Whatever it is, all I want to do is wake up and say yes. And that’s the answer that the Lord put in my heart.
I mention this because it touches on all of our readings. In the Book of Wisdom, we hear about the Hebrews on the night of Passover. They knew ahead of time the night of Passover, but they didn’t really understand it. The Lord said, I’m going to free you from Egypt. So in order to do that, take a lamb, roast it and put the blood on your door posts. And if I were leaving, I would’ve been like, okay, so what’s the connection there? Like, you’re going to free us from Egypt and I just have to do this lamb thing? They didn’t know. They didn’t understand. They had no idea what the Lord was going to do. They knew what he asked them to do, and they were faithful to it. And through that fidelity, they were freed from Egypt.
Similarly, in the letter to the Hebrews we hear about three different times in Abraham’s life when he was faithful. The first God asks him to move from his homeland, from his family to a new place. He has no idea what the Lord is going to do. He has no idea how the Lord is going to take care of Him. But He picks up and moves his entire household anyway. And then, advanced in age – some of the commentators will say he was in his nineties – advanced in age he is promised a descendant through whom he will have descendants as numerous as the stars. Imagine telling a 90 year old man that. But Abraham trusts. He continues to be faithful to the Lord. And through that fidelity, the promise is fulfilled. And then most horrifyingly, probably only about 15 or 20 years after that promise is fulfilled, it’s revoked, in a sense. The son that Abraham was given is now asked of him. He’s asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac. These descendants as numerous as the stars. Abraham still believes he will be given that gift. He doesn’t know how. Particularly if he loses his son Isaac, where are these descendants going to come from? And as he goes all the way to the point of lifting the knife, moments away from plunging it into his son, moments away, and the Lord stops and reveals his plan. Abraham never asked, Lord, what’s the master plan? Tell me all of the steps you’re going to take to get me to your promise. He says only, Yes, Lord, I will be faithful, whatever you ask of me. I trust that you will take care of me. I trust that you will be good to your promise. And I will simply wake up every morning and say yes. Now Abraham is listed in the Eucharistic prayer as our father in faith. He is the head of three major religions. It is through Abraham that we have our relationship with God, the Hebrew people through whom our Lord Jesus Christ comes because he was faithful every day.
Then there’s the parables the Lord tells us, these stewards, these servants, what do they do? They don’t know. They don’t know when their master’s coming back. They haven’t been given the master plan. They have no idea. All they know is they need to wake up every day and do the duty that is entrusted to them. And if they do that, if they are faithful to their daily duty, then when the Lord returns, when the Master comes back from His journey, they will be ready. There’s no special preparation they have to make. There’s no special thing they have to do. They simply need to do their job while he’s gone. And he will come back. And he’s so thrilled with them that he will wait on them at table. That, by the way, is a wild image because the commentaries that I read, they say that this was not a practice in the ancient world. Nobody had ever heard of a master waiting on his servants. This wasn’t things that happened in Jesus’s time. This is a new idea that the Lord introduces. The idea that God would wait on His people is something new and incomprehensible.
This is what the Lord asks of each of you. I don’t know what He’s put into your life. For many of you, like me, it’s daily responsibilities. It might be administration of your household. It may be loving your spouse or loving your children. Maybe going to work each day and being faithful to your career. Maybe taking care of somebody that you love. Just waking up and saying your daily prayers could also be something unexpected. Somebody who drops into your life that you weren’t expecting to have to talk to that day. It could be a call on your heart, new or old, that you finally just need to say yes to and to follow whatever it is to be a good and faithful steward, to be a good and faithful servant. All you have to do is wake up and say, yes. I find it incredibly stressful and I resent it having to take responsibility for everything. But that is not something that the Lord has asked me to do, and it’s not something the Lord has asked you to do. He has the plan. He does the work. He knows what he is about, and he knows how He will fulfill his promises in your life. You don’t have to know where he’s taking it. You simply have to wake up each morning and say yes to whatever he puts in your life and on your heart. If you do that, you will receive the inexhaustible treasure that the Lord talks about, the treasure that moth cannot eat and thief cannot steal. You will build up for yourself a treasure of grace, a treasure of fulfillment, a treasure of happiness. The Lord is in control. You just need to wake up each morning and say yes.
No necesitas conocer el plan de Dios. Necesitas conocer la voluntad de Dios – que él te ama, que desea salvarte, lo que desea para ti, lo que te llama a hacer – pero no necesitas conocer el plan de Dios. Dios no te debe nada, y ciertamente no te debe una explicación de todas sus acciones o de cómo va a llevar a cabo sus promesas.
Considere los Hebreos en la noche de pascua, mencionados en nuestra primera lectura. Se les dijo que Dios los liberaría de Egipto. Se les dijo que sacrificaran un cordero y colocaran su sangre en los postes de sus puertas. Moisés sabía que Dios planeaba matar a cada hijo primogénito en la tierra de Egipto, pero la mayoría de los hebreos no lo sabían. Simplemente sabían que tenían que esparcir la sangre del cordero en los postes de sus puertas. No podrían haber sabido cómo Dios usaría esa acción para rescatarlos de la esclavitud, pero lo hicieron de todos modos, porque confiaban en el Señor.
Abraham también confió en el Señor. Se le dijo que recogiera a toda su familia y todas sus posesiones y se mudara a una nueva tierra extranjera. No sabía por qué. Él no sabía lo que el Señor iba a hacer con ese movimiento. Solo sabía que el Señor le pidió que se moviera, así que se movió. Del mismo modo, Abraham no tenía idea de cómo el Señor le iba a dar descendientes tan numerosos como las estrellas cuando él y su esposa eran muy viejos, pero el Señor hizo exactamente eso. Y, lo más difícil de todo, Abraham no sabía por qué el Señor le pidió que sacrificara a su hijo o cómo el Señor le iba a dar descendientes, pero siguió los mandamientos del Señor de todos modos, llegando incluso al punto de levantar la daga sobre su hijo.
En todo momento, Abraham no conocía el plan de Dios. No sabía cómo Dios iba a usar una reubicación, o la vejez, o el sacrificio de su hijo para cumplir las promesas de Dios para él. Pero actuó de todos modos. Él siguió al Señor. Y, debido a su fidelidad, fue grande e increíblemente bendecido, materialmente, en su familia, y en el hecho de que honramos su nombre a lo largo de los siglos. Abraham es nuestro padre en la fe, porque nos muestra cómo es la fe.
Así que, una vez más, no necesitas conocer el plan maestro de Dios. Él no tiene que explicarse a ti mismo. Solo necesitas saber lo que él te está pidiendo que hagas, y decir “sí” a esa pregunta.
De acuerdo con la parábola de Jesús de hoy, ustedes son siervos en la casa de Dios. ¿Explica un maestro cada decisión a sus siervos? ¡No! El amo pide a los sirvientes que hagan algo y ellos lo hacen. ¿Les dice el amo a los siervos cuándo va a regresar? ¡No! Es responsabilidad de los siervos estar listos para su regreso, cuando sea posible, incluso en medio de la noche. Un buen siervo simplemente hace lo que se le pide que haga, fiel y consistentemente. Un buen cristiano hace lo mismo: cumplimos con nuestros deberes ante Dios, hacemos lo que Él nos pide que hagamos, decimos sí a cualquiera que sea su mandato.
Sin conocer su plan, confiamos en él porque es Dios. Confiamos en que él sabe lo que está haciendo. Confiamos en que siempre está actuando por nuestro bien. Y así decimos “sí”, incluso cuando no entendemos a dónde nos puede llevar ese “sí”.
Para la mayoría de ustedes, ese “sí” significa despertarse cada día e ir a trabajar y cuidar de su familia. Para todos nosotros significa asegurarnos de decir nuestras oraciones diarias y de que venimos a Misa siempre que podemos el domingo. A veces significa responder a algo nuevo: una nueva persona, un nuevo llamado del Señor, una nueva oportunidad de servicio. Sin embargo, en todos los casos, no cuestionamos al Señor y le decimos que necesitamos conocer todo su plan antes de decir “sí”. En cambio, decimos “sí” y confiamos en que él sabe lo que está haciendo.
why is this post dated August 2023–is it just a mistake?
Thank you for pointing that out! I’ll fix it.