Summary: We must listen to the Spirit of God rather than our weak minds and wills so that we can bear the fruits of the Spirit and with cleverness spread God's kingdom.
Today’s Scripture readings offer a number of challenges and difficulties to the Christian. On the face of it, it appears that Jesus is applauding a dishonest steward’s actions in cheating his employer. Worse, He seems to be telling His disciples that the ends justify the means. Of course, both interpretations are incorrect. So let’s see if we can go back to the sources to get a meaning that can take us closer to our goal–eternal union with Christ.
Today’s Gradual helps us see more clearly: “Be thou unto me a protecting God, and a place of refuge to save me. In Thee, O God, have I hoped: O Lord, let me never be confounded.” God is the True North for every moral compass. If our compass points to God, then He will be for us a protector, a place of refuge, a savior, and the One who never allows us to be confounded.
The problem, as C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton were fond of saying, is that we are born “upside down.” Our moral compass starts off pointing South. That is what St. Paul is telling us pretty much all the time, but especially in Romans. When Paul says we will die if we live by the flesh, we must understand that by “flesh” he is not talking about our skin and bones and muscles. The Greek word is sarx, and the word even sounds dangerous. Sarx is how we are born. It means we are morally stupid and morally weak. That’s our natural state. Plato says we are charioteers driving a pair of horses. One is noble and well-bred and obedient. The other is base-born, chaotic and self-willed. Paul says that we are torn between the Spirit, which urges us to self-control, obedience to God and noble deeds, and the flesh, the sarx, which encourages us to seek our own pleasure and ignore God’s law. We will either be a servant of God or a slave of the flesh. There’s no such thing as being your own man or woman. You will follow the promptings of God’s spirit or the urges of your disordered nature. There’s no in-between path. The spirit helps you to look at God and see a loving Father. The flesh, the sarx, makes you treat God as a vengeful taskmaster who cares nothing for you. But you know that when you rebel against God’s reasonable rules, your revolt ends in sin, guilt, and alienation from your friends and family.
So commit yourself to learning God’s reasonable operating rules for your body, soul and spirit. They can be found in the Compendium of the Catechism. Then follow those rules so that you can be happy and useful in building up the kingdom of God, the Church. You will bear the fruits of the spirit that Father described last week. Charity–active love poured out for others, especially the poor and marginalized. Joy–the kind of spiritual radiance that goes well beyond pleasure and gives you the quiet confidence of a child of God, even when you are suffering. Peace of heart amid trouble. Patience with those who can’t understand you, or irritate you. Kindness, especially with those you feel like hurting. And goodness, long-suffering, mildness, faith, modesty, continence and chastity. These fruits of the Spirit can only come from the Holy Spirit, and they help to confirm you in your own imitation of Jesus and Mary. They also make you more effective in witnessing to the Truth, to Jesus and His Church, something that the Legion of Mary could teach us all to do.
That’s because the Legion, and so many other Catholic lay apostolates, have learned the real lesson of today’s Gospel. The wasteful steward Jesus immortalized in His parable had one salient characteristic: he knew how to get good results with a minimum of effort. In his case all he had to do was understand he had been fired, and call in all his master’s debtors to erase his own profit margin. He wasn’t going to get the commission anyway, so he made the ones who owed the bills think they were getting a bargain. Who wouldn’t be happy with a 50% discount, or even 20%?
Jesus wants us to be just that shrewd in the spiritual life. For instance, if you have wealth, direct it during and after your life to spread the kingdom of God. Make friends with the saints and angels who will be your companions in eternity, so that when you die there will be a celebration in heaven. Give money to support a seminarian, or to send your grandchildren to authentically Catholic schools. Clean out your closets of what you won’t wear, or what won’t fit, and give it to St. Vincent de Paul for the benefit of the poor. Take a couple of hours a week from your video gaming and use it to read the Scriptures. Make union with God first on your bucket list. And second and third.