Thursday, September 1, 2016

GOD'S SERVANTS AND STEWARDS


Homily for Sept. 2nd, 2016: 1 Corinthians 4:1-5.

          “People should regard us,” Paul writes in our first reading, “as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” Living as servants and stewards is fundamental in Holy Scripture. We find it already in the second creation tale in Genesis, chapter two. The man whom God places in Eden is not its owner. The garden belongs to God. God places Adam in the garden “to till it and care for it.”  He is God’s agent, his steward, to tend the garden on behalf of its creator and owner. As long as Adam obeys the creator’s laws, he enjoys the garden’s abundant fruits. When he breaks God’s law, he is expelled from Eden – a symbol of the ordered, beautiful world of God’s making. In terms simple enough for a child to understand, the Genesis creation tale proclaims what the modern ecology movement has rediscovered: that there is a sacred order in nature. When we respect nature’s laws, we prosper. When we violate the natural order, we pay a price. We are creation’s stewards, accountable to God, our creator.

          We are stewards of all God’s gifts: our time, our talents, and treasure – the money and other possessions we have. These are gifts entrusted to us by God, for a limited time. One day we shall have to give an account to God of how we have used his gifts. Crucial to the right use of these gifts is gratitude to their giver, the Lord God. 

          Hebrew religion taught the offering of firstfruits.  The Jewish farmer and shepherd offered God the first fruits of field and flock, out of gratitude, in recognition that everything comes ultimately from God. Jesus, who learned this practice in childhood from his mother, from St. Joseph, and in the synagogue school at Nazareth, would be shocked to find many of his present-day followers offering God not the firstfruits but leavings: what is left over after they have provided themselves and their loved ones not only with necessities, and often with many luxuries besides.

          Show me someone who is deeply happy, and I’ll show you someone who puts God first -- in all areas of life: who gives the Lord God the first claim on his or her time, his or her talents (which means the skills and abilities we have developed by using the gifts God has given us). Such a person also puts God first financially, by giving Him not a tip but the first claim on his or her money and other possessions. There are such people here in our parish – and in every parish the world over. They are expressing their gratitude to God for all his bounty. And if a long life has taught me anything, it is this. Grateful people are happy people: no exceptions!