We have all grown up hearing the parables of Jesus. We tend to think of them as familiar and comforting. Familiarity, however, can be a distraction and cause us to miss the point. The parables of Christ are designed to puzzle and shock to get our attention, then make a point. Our parable this Sunday (Luke 16:1 – 9) is an excellent example. Jesus, who we believe, directs us to a more virtuous life seems to be promoting dishonesty, even theft. The steward, caught in miss-using his masters resources, conspires with his masters debtors to fraudulently reduce their dept to win favor with the debtors. What is the life message that God has for us here? The parable has a “punch line” that leads us to the answer, “The children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” (Luke 16:8).
I remember, as a child in grade school, I had great, important, reasons why I shouldn’t do my homework. My parents would say, in exasperation, “if you put as much energy into your studies as you do in avoiding them you would be an A student!” The point here is how much effort do we put into managing our material well-being? Do we put as much effort into our relationship with God? The reality is that, in our lives, relationship is everything. The New Testament frequently compares our relationship with God to marriage. This is an apt comparison. Marriages work when spouses pay attention to each other. Marriages frequently fail when the focus of spouses in on material well-being.
The message of our parable is that our relationship with Christ is what really matters in our life. That relationship is where we need to focus our energy. The opening prayer (Collect) of today’s Mass gives us a summary statement of the same idea, “O God, who founded all the commands of your sacred Law upon love of you and our neighbor, grant that, by keeping your precepts, we may merit to attain eternal life.” In the teaching of the Church, the body of Christ, Christ gives us sure direction for living full life, eternal life, as our prayer tells us, but full life here and now. This is why we come to Mass. We hear the truth of God in the prayers of the Mass and in the Scripture readings in the Liturgy of the Word, but most importantly, at Mass, we encounter Christ in the Eucharist. At Mass, Christ truly becomes present on the altar. We need to remember, as our opening prayer states, the laws of the Church are based on love of God. That love must be reflected in how we treat the people around us. Everything comes back to relationship.
So how do we focus our energy on this critical relationship with God? There is an old saying, “it’s more important to work smart than to work hard.” Relationship is about presence and communication. We go to Mass to be in the presence of God. By the words of Jesus Christ, spoken by the priest, bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. The Mass is a privileged encounter with God. We need to extend that encounter with God to every moment of our lives. Every one of us needs a routine of prayer. We should pray every day. Use Sacred Scripture in your daily prayer. The Church has specific Bible readings for the Mass for each day. You can get these Mass readings on the internet and incorporate them into your daily prayer. You don’t need to spend hours in prayer, just a few minutes each day. Consistency is more important than quantity. For you families, pray together. Whatever form of prayer you choose, take a few seconds and ask for God’s guidance and help. Look at each other and thank God for the gift you have been given in your family. We all have a feeling that life has more to offer, that is deeper relationship, with God, and the people around us. If we cooperate, God helps us get there.