Friday November 5, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Philippians 3:17-4:1) Gospel (St. Luke 16:1-8)
It would seem in the readings today that we have a total contradiction. Jesus tells us that the owner of this place commended the dishonest steward for his dishonesty, and tells us that the children of this world are more prudent in acting with their own than the children of light. At the same time, we read in the first reading that the people who are on their way to destruction are the ones who have their minds set on the things of this world, but that we have our citizenship in heaven. Well, Jesus is not saying that this man was being commended by his master in the sense that Our Lord was saying that he did a good job; but rather, he was saying exactly what Saint Paul said: If we are going to be worldly, if we are going to be focused on all the things of this world, particularly money and materialism, then we are going to be just like this guy in the reading. We can probably assume that the owner had obtained some of his wealth through dishonest means, and now he was commending somebody else who was doing the exact same thing.
It is all about the self. All that people who are worldly think about is themselves. Remember, that is my definition of hell: Looking at yourself for the rest of eternity. People who are worldly are concerned about themselves and in getting ahead in whatever way. If they have to lie, cheat, and steal to do it, they do not care; they do not care who they walk on to be able to do that. And so that is what the Lord is pointing out: one worldly person working with another worldly person. The owner is going to commend the dishonest steward for doing exactly what he himself did.
However, the Lord says that the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own kind than the children of light because those who are children of light, those who recognize their citizenship in heaven and live accordingly, they are not going to deal with things along those lines. They are going to try to be honest; therefore, they do not understand why someone would rip them off. They try to be good, and they do not understand why people would treat them badly.
Those are the kinds of things we have to look at within our own selves, because if we are being worldly, if we are being just like these other people, then we have to ask ourselves, “For what am I preparing myself, as far as eternal life goes? Am I preparing myself for a life of selfishness, for a life where I am focused only on me and doing anything I can, where it does not matter what I do to anybody else as long as I get what I want? Or am I striving to live a life of virtue, being an imitator, as Saint Paul said, of those who are walking according to the right path?” Saint Paul suggests that his Philippian converts should imitate him, but that is because he himself is imitating Christ. We are all to imitate Christ. Now we can look at the saints and see the examples that they give us of the way we are to live because they have imitated Christ. We have plenty of examples of people to follow. There are plenty examples of worldly people out there that we can follow too.
So we have a choice and we have to make the choice. The choice is made in practical, daily, lived-out reality. Not in the objective, theoretical, conceptual kind of way, but in the practical way. We have to put into practice the choice that we make. Each one of us can look at our daily life, we can look at our actions, we can look at the way that we live, and then we can ask ourselves, “How have I chosen? Have I chosen heaven, where my citizenship is? Am I living a life of virtue in imitation of Jesus Christ? Or have I chosen hell, meaning that I have chosen the way of the world, the way of selfishness, the way that is going to look out only for number one, (meaning me instead of God; number one, that is, in the worldly way)?” Those are the two ways and they are the only two ways. We can either be practicing the charity and putting God as number one, or we can be practicing selfishness and putting the self as number one. Either way, we are preparing for eternity. We know which way we are called and which way we are to live. Our citizenship is in heaven, and we are to live in this world as citizens of heaven with our focus on imitating Jesus Christ.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.