Pastoral Sharings: “The Unjust Steward”


Father Cusick
September 22, 2013
Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time


Amos 8, 4-7; Psalm 113, 1-2,.4-6, 7-8; 1 Timothy 2,1-8; St. Luke 16, 1-13

“Make friends for yourselves through your use of this worlds goods, so that when they fail you, a lasting reception may be yours.” The gifts God bestows upon us in this world come with a responsibility to be good stewards of all he has made. These are the little matters he entrusts to us now, so that we may prepare for the far greater good of eternal life.

The Church holds in a crucial balance both the universal destination of goods as well as the right to private property. Both reflect Gods providence, and neither excuse us from sincere and generous charity.

The Church draws her social teaching from the Lord’s instructions in the Gospel parables and other expressions of his law of love.

We are not permitted to reduce our use of earthly goods to the pursuit of profit alone irregardless of other factors. A theory that makes profit the exclusive norm and ultimate end of economic activity is morally unacceptable.

“The disordered desire for money cannot but produce perverse effects. It is one of the causes of the many conflicts which disturb the social order. (Cf. Gaudium et spes, art. 3; Laborem Exercens 7; 20; Centesimus Annus 35.) A system that ‘subordinates the basic rights of individuals and of groups to the collective organization of production’ is contrary to human dignity. (Gaudium et spes 65, art. 2.) Every practice that reduces persons to nothing more than a means of profit enslaves man, leads to idolizing money, and contributes to the spread of atheism. ‘You cannot serve God and mammon.'(Mt 6:24; Lk 16:13.)” (CCC 2424)

All that God gives is to be shared, but in a collaborative and voluntary way, in accord with the human dignity both of the giver and the receiver of the gift. “The goods of creation are destined for the entire human race. The right to private property does not abolish the universal destination of goods.” (CCC 2452)

“Those blessed with wealth or economic power, whether individuals or nations, are called at the same time to stewardship and active solicitude for the poor, unemployed and dispossessed. Goods of production – material or immaterial – such as land, factories, practical or artistic skills, oblige their possessors to employ them in ways that will benefit the greatest number. Those who hold goods for use and consumption should use them with moderation, reserving the better part for guests, for the sick and the poor.” (CCC 2405)

A principal divine foundation for the right to private property is enshrined in the decalogue itself: “You shall not steal”.

“The seventh commandment forbids unjustly taking or keeping the goods of one’s neighbor and wronging him in any way with respect to his goods. It commands justice and charity in the care of earthly goods and the fruits of men’s labor. For the sake of the common good, it requires respect for the universal destination of goods and respect for the right to private property. Christian life strives to order this world’s goods to God and to fraternal charity.” (CCC 2401)

There are situations, however, when the individual is not committing grave sin where, by appropriating some amount of the private property of an unjust employer, he is merely providing for the basic sustenance of his family or those in his care. This is traditionally called occult compensation.

The Church advocates a living wage for all workers. Withholding just wages can be stealing as well and can put the lives of others in danger. The basic goods to maintain life, shelter and health are a fundamental human right.

“The seventh commandment forbids theft, that is, usurping another’s property against the reasonable will of the owner. There is no theft if consent can be presumed or if refusal is contrary to reason and the universal destination of goods. This is the case in obvious and urgent necessity when the only way to provide for immediate, essential needs (food, shelter, clothing . . .) is to put at one’s disposal and use the property of others.” (CCC 2408)

Social justice on earth anticipates the perfect justice and love of the Kingdom. We are trusted with these little matters now that our heavenly Father may prepare us to inherit, as true sons and daughters of his, the treasure beyond all price: the reign of heaven.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
September 22, 2013

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 16:1-13
Gospel Summary

In order to appreciate fully the import of today’s gospel text, which gives us the parable of the Unjust Steward, we must remember that parables, unlike allegories, focus on only one element in the comparison. Thus, the lesson to be drawn from this parable is that the followers of Jesus must also act prudently in regard to their own future prospects.

A Lesson in Stewardship
Stewardship . . . what does this term really mean?  The parable of the Dishonest steward in Luke 16 argues against the divorce between God and everyday life.  Though it is impossible to serve both God and Mammon, it is very important to serve God by the way we use money.  Stewardship does not just mean giving to the church of time, talent, and treasure, but prudently increasing the master’s property, taking initiative to be fruitful.  Sometimes this means looking for ways to earn more money through employment, business opportunities, and investments, so that we can give more.

25th Sunday: Being a Success
What cheaters! Those merchants that the prophet Amos spoke about in the first reading had a great system for swindling people. They got together and decided that they would change the value of the shekel to their advantage. So, to use our terminology, a dollar would cost 150 pennies instead of 100 pennies, and you could only use dollars, not change.  Therefore, what would normally cost, say, $10.00 would now cost more, $15.00.  Then they changed the weight measurements, the ephod, again to their benefit.  So, for example, they changed the weight of a pound from 16 oz to 12 oz.  The merchants all worked together, so the people could not get a fair deal anywhere.  These were the same merchants who put on the pious front, celebrated the Sabbath and the holy days and closed their places of business, not that they had much choice since the people were not allowed to shop then anyway.

The Social Dimension in Lumen Fidei
The encyclical Lumen Fidei has been much appreciated in terms of what it says about religious faith, but it also has an explicitly social dimension, which is present in the fourth chapter, entitled “God has prepared for them a city.” (Heb. 11:16) Pope Francis addresses four themes there: “Faith and the common good,” “Faith and the family,” “A light for life in society,” and “Consolation and strength in suffering.” It’s worth looking at each of these.

Saints Teach Us Piety by Their Example
When we talk about the gift of piety, it is often easiest to get the hang of it by talking about what it looks like. Like most things having to do with God or any other personal relationship, piety is often a thing easier caught than taught. Seeing a saint makes it easier to understand sanctity than merely reading about it, just as you more easily learn to ride a bike or throw a football by watching others and doing it than you do by just reading an instruction manual.

Seven Related Aspects of Mary’s Sanctity
Now, except on the one issue of “praying to” saints, most of the differences between us [Catholics and Fundamentalists] are matters of emphasis or sensibility rather than doctrine. But when it comes to Mary, the greatest saint, doctrine sharply divides.
Fundamentalists call Mariology “Mariolatry.” Passions run higher on this than on any other issue. Yet here too there’s a difference in sensibility behind the dispute.
Fundamentalists would be much more open to the Marian doctrines (the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption) if they understood the motives behind devotion to Mary. …more 

Pope: there is no such thing as innocent gossip
He who speaks ill of his neighbor is a hypocrite who lacks the courage to look to his own shortcomings. Speaking during his homily at morning Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, Pope Francis focused on the fact that gossip has a “criminal” side to it, because every time we speak ill of our brothers, we imitate Caine’s homicidal gesture.

Names of God
Knowing God by name allows us to enter into a relationship with him in a very intimate, personal way. While many of us know Him as “God” or “Father,” there are a vast array of names to which he will answer—and each signifies yet another of his unique aspects.

It’s Biblical to Ask Saints to Pray for Us
There is nothing wrong with asking the heavenly saints to pray for us.
Many Protestants argue that asking the saints to pray for us is “unbiblical,” while throwing around verses like 1 Timothy 2:5. But they are incorrect.
1 Timothy 2:5 — the infamous “one mediator between God and men” verse — refers to salvation, not prayer. The verse reminds us that it is only because of the graces found through Christ (God Himself) that we are able to have any real relationship with God and reach Heaven. It does not, however, absolutely negate relations with angels or heavenly saints. After all, it was an angel (Gabriel) that spoke to Mary before Christ was conceived in her body, not God Himself.

The Parish as the Center of Reason
What! Is the wrong title attached to this column? How could reason possibly be connected with paying dues and getting the kids baptized? The answer is that, when used properly our reason helps us grasp reality. Reality is the key to authentic human life. Yet paradoxically our age is probably the one least interested in reality.

I recently mentioned to someone how great Pope Francis is. The other person agreed, but complained that Francis had still not ordained women, even though women were the first witnesses to the Resurrection. I replied that witnessing the Resurrection was not the basis of the priesthood in the Catholic Church. The person’s answer was “[Expletive deleted.]”

Living Our Lives “Under God”
We rarely hear God speaking to us, in the sense of audible words.

But God nonetheless still often speaks to us—whether it be through a Scripture that set our hearts on fire, the words of a priest in the pulpit or confessional, a prayer or hymn that happens to address our deepest concerns and worries at just the right moment, or even the thoughts God stirs within us while contemplating the mysteries of the rosary or the lives of the saints.

Pope calls faithful to pray, participate actively in politics
Catholics should not be indifferent to politics, Pope Francis said, but should offer their suggestions, as well as prayers that their leaders may serve the common good in humility and love.

In his Sept. 16 daily homily at Santa Marta, the Pope rejected the idea that “a good Catholic doesn’t meddle in politics.”

What Happens When Faith Finds Us?
Throughout this Year of Faith we have been looking primarily at what individuals and communities can do to spark a more sincere approach to the faith.  We have written and talked a lot about helping ourselves and others commit to regular church attendance, catechetical growth, and finding ways to serve others in such a way that they know it is because of our commitment to Christ and His Church.

Murdered Man’s Brother Cites Faith, Forgives Killer
Pointing to his faith in Christ and reliance on the mercy of God, a man in Argentina has voiced public forgiveness to the man who murdered his brother.

“If God forgives us every day and gives us the chance to ‘start over,’ how can I not forgive somebody else?” Hernan Prado said with tears in his eyes during a march his family convened for forgiveness and repentance.

Secrets of Confession
Having a parent in a nursing home means meeting new people. And so it was during a recent visit with my elderly parents in Michigan. My dad, at 88, does well living on his own. My mom, 82, has been in a nursing home for two years. She has a new roommate since my last visit. Betty (not real name) has a wonderful personality and loves conversation. It is typical to hear her singing along with the Perry Como and Neil Diamond cd’s we often play for my mom.

Analyzing the Seven Deadly Sins, Pt. 2: Wrath
Wrath is a sin that not thought of as easily as some of the other sins.  In my own experience, my wrath was always justified; there was always some reason for my rage, and never an analysis of why it was infesting my soul in the first place.

I say infested because this is what the sin of wrath does.  Wrath, or hatred if you will, is an acid within the soul that eats away at the heart until there is almost nothing left – St. John Cassian himself refers to it as a “deadly poison.”1  It turns the Christian soul into a volcanic being, literally waiting to erupt and spill over its hate on to whatever it deems as its target and/or its oppressor.

On Being Rich in What Matters to God
The Lord tells a familiar parable and how a certain rich man had a harvest too big for his barns, do built bigger barns. But he dies surrounded by his riches, and the Lord calls him a fool since he thought somehow that his wealth could sustain him for years and did not consider his judgment.

There comes the memorable line that concludes the parable:

Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.

What Can We Do in the Face of Suffering?
I remember a couple of years ago seeing some TV reports about a heartbreaking situation in Somalia and Kenya that continue today. The commentator said, “We must warn you. Some of the images you are about to see are quite disturbing.”
We proceed to see starving infants and children with distended tummies, crying children who didn’t know where their next drink of water would come from, women who had several boys and girls clinging to them as they waited for aid from another country that provided them a meager bit to eat.

The Danger of Martha’s Vindication
I have noticed a troubling trend in past years when the Gospel reading about Mary and Martha’s encounter with Christ surfaces. Of course we all know the passage:

“Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

What it Means to be an Altar Server
Watch this magnificent video, released yesterday from Two Sense Films, which vividly captures the beauty and gravity of altar serving:

The Priesthood and the Choice
I heard an excellent homily last week, delivered by a young priest who spoke with passion and energy. It was clearly his own take on how the Gospel reading for this daily Mass spoke to him. He crafted it to offer lessons to us. It was beautiful, but that wasn’t what struck me. What moved me most this day was the very existence of this man and his vocation. I had a sudden and overwhelming sense of gratitude.

The Happy Warrior
The famous author G. K. Chesterton earned my admiration after reading the Everlasting Man. His sharp wit and borderline whimsical style serve a unique style of apologetics that I have found both charming and thought provoking. The more I reflect on his writing I find that perhaps our world needs more of the joyful Catholic apologist.

If You Can’t Say Something Nice
My father was a nice guy and he used to quote the old saying, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” I used to joke that this was the reason I valued monastic silence. The other entertaining quip is Dorothy Parker’s line, “If you can’t say something nice…come sit next to me.”

A Long Way To Go
For all those who like to remind that things in the Church have improved, a little story to remind how far we still have to go.

For a  tradition-minded guy who writes about Catholic stuff, I mostly want to mind my own business.

It takes quite a bit for me to say anything to anyone regarding Church matters.  It takes quite a bit more for me to say something to a priest.  In fact, in my 46 years I have only done it once or twice before(Mostly friendly jabs at priests I knew fairly well).  Nobody likes that guy and I don’t want to be that guy.

But you know what?  Sometimes you gotta be that guy.

What Do You Smell like?
You probably did not miss Pope Francis’ recommendation that bishops should smell like their sheep. What may have been missed is the universal call to holiness. If a bishop is supposed to smell like their followers, what does your bishop smell like?

Three lies that built a revolution
This week it became obvious that America’s sexual revolution has been built on lies. Three of the cases which transformed the legal system and altered the moral ecosystem are based on fiction: Roe v Wade, which became the foundation stone for abortion rights; Lawrence v Texas, which decriminalised sodomy and led inexorably to same-sex marriage; and the murder of Matthew Shepard, which transformed disapproval of homosexual acts into hateful homophobia.

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