19th Sunday in Ordinary Time – August 7, 2016

On the July 4th weekend, after Sunday Masses were done, I went back to the rectory to have lunch. I turned on the tv, and heard an announcement about a Three Stooges marathon occurring that afternoon. Lunch was delayed while I watched Moe, Larry and Curly in “Micro-Phonies.” The Stooges were working (if you can call it that), as repairmen for a recording studio. Their antics landed them in the position of having to impersonate a famous orchestra director and a renowned opera singer.

The Stooges were catastrophic failures as repairmen, and even worse as musicians. Very quickly, they were discovered to be phonies, and had to flee a crowd throwing phonograph records at them. Whenever I read one of Jesus’ parables about an unfaithful steward, I am reminded of the Stooges. The Stooges routinely took on serious responsibilities, and always to tragic but entertaining results. The Stooges had many talents, but responsibility wasn’t one of them. The unfaithful stewards in Jesus’ parables, like the one in today’s Gospel reading, were also tragic failures at fulfilling their responsibilities.

In this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus used a few metaphors involving domestic servants, and then he told a parable about an unfaithful steward. The word for steward in the Gospel referred to anyone who acted as the manager or administrator of a household. In this parable, it refers to the supervisor of a wealthy man’s household servants. The steward in the parable was judged to be unfaithful because he mistreated the servants whom he supervised.

Jesus summed up the moral of the story by saying, “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” (Luke 12:48) The implication is that those who wish to serve God must take seriously the responsibility of living a just and righteous life. Those who fail to take seriously the responsibilities of being a disciple of Jesus will be judged unfaithful like the steward (and the Stooges).

All the baptized are stewards, in one way or another. Each of us has responsibilities to, and for, other people. Spouses are stewards of their marriage. Parents are stewards of their children. Adult children often become stewards of the aged parents. Every citizen is a steward of the political rights, freedoms and responsibilities of living in this country. As baptized people, we have a particularly important stewardship of our personal faith and our mission to preach the Faith to others. Although each of us has responsibilities unique to our individual lives, each of us is a steward who serves God’s will.

Jesus described the nature of our vocation as stewards of the Lord by saying, “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” (Luke 12:34) These are familiar words, repeated often, but we should ask ourselves what these words mean. The generic, theoretical meaning of this saying of Jesus is fairly obvious. In general, the highest value in a person’s life is the one that the person spends the most time, energy and resources to protect and foster. No one’s life, however, is generic or theoretical. Each life is unique, and therefore, the meaning of this saying is unique to each person’s life.

Take a few moments to tally up where you spend most of your personal, spiritual and material resources. What is the one thing of most value to you? What is it that you couldn’t live without? What is at the center of your life? Are these things your treasure?

I’d like to suggest the following perspective on what Jesus meant when he said, “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” (Luke 12:34) Our heart’s treasure is where we place our hopes and expectations.

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus told his disciples that Divine recompense awaits those who spend their lives accomplishing God’s will. (Luke 12:42-44) To live in expectation of our Lord’s return, as the servants in the parable (Luke 12:35-37), is to live with our hearts set on pleasing God in all things. To treasure God’s will above all else is to expect the Divine will to be accomplished in one’s own life and in the world. The only treasure worthy of our hopes and expectations is the treasure of being found accomplishing God’s will.

The good things of this life are nearly countless, and some are profound treasures. I put great value on the love of family and friends. I am very grateful to be here at All Saints, a parish comprised of so many good people. Of all the priceless treasures that life has to offer, there is only one that promises to endure forever. I would never want to diminish the value of God’s created gifts, but the one gift worthy of our hopes and expectations is the gift of discipleship we have because of the proclamation of the Gospel.

It is so true as to be axiomatic that where our treasure is, there also our heart. (Luke 12:34) Not all treasures, however, are of equal value. My friends The Stooges are apposite illustrations of how to value things inappropriately. It is up to each of us, therefore, to focus our hopes on the treasure that never fades: the treasure of doing God’s will each day of our lives.