This past Sunday, the Gospel reading was Luke 16:1-13. In this reading, a steward, (a trusted servant responsible for the household of his master), has wasted his master’s goods. He is told to prepare an accounting, as he will be removed from his position. In something of a panic, he calls in his master’s debtors and reduces their debts to curry favor with them that he might have some recourse after losing his position. On its face, he appears to continue to mismanage his master’s affairs, again for his own benefit. And then we have this odd reaction from his master:
“The master commended the dishonest steward for his prudence…” Luke 16:8a
This is followed by Jesus saying to the Pharisees: “And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal habitations.” Luke 16: 9
So, am I the only one that was ever confused by this? Looks to me like Jesus is telling us to lie, cheat and steal to gain heaven. I’ve never been particularly enlightened by any of the homilies I’ve heard on this either. Most times the focus is on the earlier reading from Amos, which talks about how the people “observe the Sabbath” by not selling and cheating in the marketplace, yet, their hearts and minds are focused on when they can resume their dishonest lives instead of on the worship of God. Let’s face it, there is a lot of material to work with there, in our time as much as 2000 years ago.
Is joy at the heart of your life in Christ? Many Catholics feel beleaguered as they struggle to stand up for the truth in an increasingly hostile environment. Of course, it is easy to become so busy addressing serious moral and religious issues that our spirituality is relegated to Sunday Mass and a few Hail Marys rattled off on the run. However, if we are determined to be effective agents of change in society, we must make time to learn how to live in, with, and through Christ. Only when we are filled with the power of Holy Spirit, we will witness effectively with joy, with a dance in our step.
Personally, I am not good with courage or living simply. My anxieties have me afraid of pretty much everything:
- lightning storms
- spiders, snakes, anything that creeps
- being alone
- injury or illness to my kids
…just to name a few.
As I have well documented in my Money Monday series; my inability to live within my means for the last 30+ years has wreaked havoc on my finances and my peace of mind. Where was Pope Francis’ message when I needed it? If I’m honest, would I have even listened back then?
Well, luckily as long as I’m breathing – there is always time to find out. Here’s the amazing thing about being a believer and a friend of God – “see I make all things new
” (Revelation 21:5); today I can make the changes necessary to embrace this message and apply its teaching to my current (and for hence forth) circumstances.
Life requires courage. That is clear in the horrific events of this year – just making the decision to leave our homes can be cause for pause. In the case of my dear friend from our parish, stabbed in her own home by a random act by a distraught young man, even home doesn’t feel safe any longer. There is illness and accidents; and so much beyond our control that can lead our hearts to ache; and fall into despair and fear. As a person who has battled anxiety her entire life (diagnosed with a ‘nervous stomach’ at age 9); just watching the news or reading social media can send me spiraling into a panic attack.
So what do we do? … read more on Reconciled To You
All Rights Reserved, Allison Gingras 2016
Cover photo copyright – Debbie Guadino, Saints 365
Man cannot transform himself into a holy being. As my Irish grandmother would say,“You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”In other words, only Christ can transform us into His image and draw us into the heart of His Father.
Atendance at Mass, regular confession, spiritual exercises, fasting, and prayer are wonderful vehicles of grace but if we think pious activities will sanctify us, we will only appear to be holy on the outside like the Pharisees:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.(Matthew 23:27)
In a few days the Church will celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. Forty days after his Resurrection, Christ ascended into heaven. His Ascension marked the end of his earthly ministry. Having conquered sin and death, Jesus ascended to receive the glory due him [Philippians 2:8-11], mediate on our behalf [Hebrews 9:24], send the Holy Spirit promised at the Last Supper [John 16:7], and prepare a place for us in eternity [John 14:2]. Immediately following the Ascension, an angel informs the disciples that Christ’s Second Coming will occur in the same way. According to the Catechism , “Christ’s Ascension into heaven signifies his participation, in his humanity, in God’s power and authority.” Our Lord’s Ascension bridges his Incarnation in humility with his coming again at the end of time as King and Supreme Judge of the universe.
Since his Ascension, Christ’s glorified body has sat at the right hand of the Father. The divinization of Christ in his incarnate body has profound implications for us. Jesus is the Exemplar, par excellence, of how we should live and what we ought to do. He also reveals our destiny, if we persevere in love. Read more…
Some people become or stay Catholics because they agree that the Church has the authority to teach and give their assent to that teaching. Others become or stay Catholics because they find her position on certain topics compatible with their own. The former is like a house built on rock, the latter is like a house built on sand. Like the houses in Our Lord’s parable, the one built on sand faces ruin.
Why do I say this? Because the Church is simultaneously gifted with Our Lord’s authority (Luke 10:16) and protected from teaching error (Matthew 16:18. Matthew 28:19-20) on one hand and filled with sinful people who need salvation on the other. So when the Church teaches and we dislike the teaching, or if we get scandalized by the bad behavior of some churchmen, the only thing that will keep us on the right path is faith that God protects His Church. If we treat our affiliation with the Church like a political affiliation, what will we do when the Church goes in a direction we don’t like?
It’s time for some more short observations on topics. I write this set about the rebellion against the magisterium and how we excuse it when we find ourselves in the wrong. We do this so well that whatever the Church teaches what we dislike, we automatically treat it as proof of their error.
Double Standards Make Us Hypocrites
When it comes to people citing Scripture or Church teaching in a partisan attack, it always gets quoted in a way which condemns an opponent but ignores one’s own transgressions. The liberal Catholic points to Scripture or Church teaching about charity and care for the poor, condemning his conservative opponent for hypocrisy. But he ignores them on morality. Likewise, the conservative Catholic points out what they have to say about living rightly, but ignores them on the topic of mercy.
Both of them take pleasure in accusing the other of being bad Christians but both behave hypocritically. They edit Scripture Church teaching to what pleases them and ignore the parts they violate. Our Lord gets transformed into an endorsement of a theological or political position. The problem is, our faith calls us to be both moral and charitable; both just and merciful. If we only obey the faith we profess when it suits us, we disobey and cause scandal to non-believers who can plainly see our hypocrisy.
Western nations attacking Christians don’t normally use the violent, brutal attacks we associate with the term “persecution.” Because of that, it is easy to pretend that Western Christians are not targeted for their beliefs. But that’s the fallacy of relative privation. The fact that attacks on Christians in Country A are far worse than harassment of Christians in Country B does not mean the situation in Country B is not unjust.
In the West, attacks on Christians begin over teachings against popular vices. Foes portray Christian opposition to moral wrongs as hating the people who commit them. Then they accuse Christians of violating an esteemed cultural value out of bad will. These accusations justify laws (or, more commonly, executive action and court rulings) against the alleged wrongdoing of Christians. When Christians insist on obeying their faith despite unjust laws, foes harass them by Criminal and Civil complaints aimed at forcing compliance.
Political and cultural elites argue that the injustice is just a consequence of Christians doing wrong. If they would abandon their “bigotry,” they would not face legal harassment. The problem is, they accuse us of wrongdoing, but we are not guilty of wrongdoing. We deny that we base our moral beliefs on the hatred of people who do what we profess is wrong. They must prove their accusation. People cannot simply assume it is true.
When people attack the Catholic Church and her teaching on morality, they point to laws in past eras that were brutal by our standards. They argue that these past laws show that the teaching that “X is a sin” caused brutal punishments. That presumes law and morality are the same, which is false. Not all sins are against the law, and sometimes law interferes with moral behavior. St. Thomas Aquinas makes this distinction:
Now human law is framed for a number of human beings, the majority of whom are not perfect in virtue. Wherefore human laws do not forbid all vices, from which the virtuous abstain, but only the more grievous vices, from which it is possible for the majority to abstain; and chiefly those that are to the hurt of others, without the prohibition of which human society could not be maintained: thus human law prohibits murder, theft and suchlike.
Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, STh., I-II q.96 a.2 resp. trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne,).
In other words, Not every sin was against the law in Christian societies. Morality distinguishes between right and wrong behavior. Morality tells what we must do or must not do regardless of what the law says. If theft is wrong, then we must not steal even if the law allows it. But while morality deals with what we must or must not do, law deals with what penalty we give when people violate morality in such a way that harms human society. Morality does not change over time, but laws can change over time.
Those who think the Pope’s emphasis on mercy supports laxity—whether critics or people who wrongly hope for change of teaching—misunderstand what mercy is. I find that Bishop Robert Barron has a good response, rejecting that view:
Many receive the message of divine mercy as tantamount to a denial of the reality of sin, as though sin no longer matters. But just the contrary is the case. To speak of mercy is to be intensely aware of sin and its peculiar form of destructiveness.
Barron, Robert (2016-03-31). Vibrant Paradoxes: The Both/And of Catholicism (Kindle Locations 199-201). Word on Fire. Kindle Edition.
His response is a good one. Jesus showed mercy to sinners. He did not tell the that their sins did not matter. The Pope doesn’t tell people that their sins do not matter either. What the Pope does say is it is not enough to tell people what is wrong. We also have to help them get back to what is right.