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Posts Tagged ‘stewardship’


Amos 3: This World . . . and the Next

Monday, July 2, 2018

Each time we visit this prophecy we have the opportunity to hear God speak to us on the topic of social justice.  For they know not how to do what is right . . . storing up in their castles what they have extorted and robbed.  The gathering of wealth at the expense of others is something many of us may not want to ponder.  We may not want to think about how much we have stored up in our homes and in our accounts that may have arrived in our hands because someone somewhere struggled to make ends meet on low wages.  We may want to open our IRA statement without wondering if the dividends were partially gained or fully gained on the backs of those who have no political or social voice.  In each news cycle we can find stories about companies and individuals who happily ignore today’s message.  Companies keep double books in order to hide their safety infractions (http://www.connectmidmissouri.com/news/story.aspx?id=635646 ), priests are involved in sex scandals (http://www.americancatholic.org/news/clergysexabuse/  ), scientists squabble over the truth or lie of global warming and the consequences for our planet (https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/).  There is an endless stream of information that asks us to think about how we act.  Today’s Noontime tells us that there is nothing new in this.  For millennia we humans have been taking advantage of one another . . . and hoping all the while that no one sees us.  Amos reminds us that God sees all.

When we turn blind eyes to corruption we have forgotten that our actions have consequences, and Jesus reminds us of this with a number of parables defining stewardship.  One story in Luke 16 even demonstrates how a corrupt steward bargains with his master’s debtors in order to save himself.  And while Jesus does not make the case that the wealthy do not go to heaven, he does plainly say (Matthew 19:23, Mark 10:25; Luke 18:25) that a rich man will have to bend a bit and be willing to sacrifice as a camel does to enter the eye of the needle.  (This is likely a reference to the pedestrian door in a large city gate – the camel will have to pass through on its knees.)  Jesus tells us that all of us are called to humility no matter our station in life . . . and so we ought to become accustomed to putting ourselves last rather than first, to serving rather than expecting to be served.

The picture of the world that Amos describes is a world gone mad with greed and envy; God will eradicate all that has been stored in silos and greenhouses, ivory apartments and summer houses.  The enemy shall strip you of your strength and pillage your castles.  Jesus paints another possibility for us.  He describes a world in which we think of one another before self, in which we pray for our enemies rather than condemn them.  And this is a prospect that all us might welcome.  Even those who are so self-centered as to be narcissists might pause to think . . . how much better it is to share what we have rather than to lose all.  But in our striving to survive we so often forget that in this finite world we prepare for the next.  We either conveniently forget, or we willfully ignore, the words we hear today: There is a consequence for what we say and think and do . . . and woe to those who take advantage of the marginalized who have no voice.

I have shared with a number of my friends that I honestly believe that our lives on this planet are a complex, interlocking dress rehearsal for the real life which follows; and that if we do not learn the art of sharing as God asks on this planet then we will still have to learn this in the next dimension.  I believe that we are living in a complicated laboratory which is full of hypotheses and lesson plans for us to learn the art of love as presented to us by God among us, Jesus.  I believe that if we struggle to tend to the despair of the great disorder within our society today . . . we are already living in the kingdom we thought was only a dream.

If we believe this world is beyond hope . . . let us act as if we are living in the next . . .


Image from: http://www.all-creatures.org/hope/

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 2, 2011.

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James 5:1-6: Killing the Righteous

Saturday, October 24, 2015money

In Sirach 34:22 we hear: To take away a neighbor’s living is to murder him; to deprive an employee of his wages is to shed blood.

In a scripture study a number of years ago we looked at these verses along with Matthew 25:34-46, Acts 3:14, and 7:52, and we learn what Jesus means when he asks us to be good stewards of our gifts.

The master was furious. ‘That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least? The least you could have done would have been to invest the sum with the bankers, where at least I would have gotten a little interest.

James points out that as humans, we learn slowly. We refuse to hear the lessons that will lighten our hearts.

And you continue, so bullheaded! Calluses on your hearts, flaps on your ears! Deliberately ignoring the Holy Spirit, you’re just like your ancestors.

How do we each kill the righteous? Today we have the opportunity to explore these verses and listen for the Word to settle into our hearts. We have the opportunity to cease killing not only the righteous among us, but the righteous parts of our own being that urge us to act in, with and through God.

For another reflection on James 5:1-6, click on the image above or visit: http://joequatronejr.com/2015/03/17/money-talks-james-51-6/

Tomorrow, a prayer for those who want to cease killing the righteous . . .

 

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015Malachi1

Malachi 1

God’s Messengers

The last of the Minor Prophets, this anonymous writer gathers a collection of oracles in which he reproaches the authority caste – the priests and rulers.  It is likely because his criticism is direct and pointed that he does not reveal his identity and he chooses the name Malachi, or My Messenger.  This prophet writes about how a life of discipleship is equivalent to the process which silver or gold undergo during smelting – hard and fast fire under the watchful eye and in the careful hands of the smith.  This particular book gives us an historical perspective of life in the Jewish community returned from exile, between the period of Haggai and the reforms instituted by Ezra and Nehemiah.  It is likely that this writer’s words helped to prepare the community for the necessary reforms which took place in about 480 – 460 B.C.E.  This prophecy is perhaps a response to the great skepticism and apathy of the time; it recalls God’s love for us, and his divine retribution and justice.  It is perhaps the most cited of the prophetic books in the New Testament. This Messenger has come as a precursor to John the Baptist, announcing the impending arrival of the Messiah.  (Senior 1170 and La Biblia de América 1022)

When we look at these verses today, we can see that Malachi points directly to the leadership for their lack of stewardship and even for their pollution of sacred rituals and rites; but any one of us might examine our role as shepherd to see where and how we have served poorly and well.  Each of us is called to guide others as we journey together toward the New Kingdom.  And each of us can find ourselves in conversation with God, discerning how we have done well and how we might improve.

Today we might take a wider look at ourselves to see how we – as priests and leaders in our families and places of work and play – have brought Christ’s message to others.  Have we been good and faithful messengers on God’s behalf?  Have we incarnated this message to speak about it through our actions rather than through our words?  Have we been a constant bride to the constant bridegroom?  Do we tell the story well that God walks among us to release us from our fears and anxieties?  Have we let others know that our salvation is already been purchased for each of us?  Have we proclaimed aloud the good news that we are each born as children of God, and that we each have gifts freely given to us to share with God’s humanity?

Part of the evening prayer in MAGNIFICAT today is from the Acts of the Apostles 13:32-33: We ourselves are proclaiming this good news to you that God promised our ancestors he has brought to fulfillment for us, [their] children, by raising up Jesus, as it is written in the second psalm, “You are my son; this day I have begotten you”.

So as we prepare for evening, we might turn to God in prayer with these words.

Good and gracious God of all of us gathered here before you,

We come humbly before you to learn how we might better shepherd ourselves, and how we might better shepherd those you send along your Way to accompany us.  May we be ever mindful of this work, may we be ever truthful to your Way.  And when we lose our footing, may we always turn to you as the source and summit of all that is good.  We ask this in the name of our brother, Jesus Christ, who lives and walks with us today.  Amen. 

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Evening.” MAGNIFICAT. 24.8 (2009). Print.  

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.1170. Print.   

LA BIBLIA DE LA AMÉRICA. 8th. Madrid: La Casa de la Biblia, 1994. 1022. Print.

A Favorite from August 24, 2009.

For more reflections on this prophecy, enter the word Malachi in the blog search bar and explore. 

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012 – Luke 16:1-8 – Prudent Stewardship

I stumble with this parable each time I hear it because I must remember the context of this story.  From the NAB footnotes: The parable . . . has to be understood in the light of the Palestinian custom of agents acting on behalf of their masters and the usurious practices common to such agents.  The dishonesty of the steward consisted in the squandering of his master’s property and not in any subsequent graft.  The master commends the steward who has forgone his own usurious commission . . . by having the debtors write new notes that reflected the real amount owed the master . . . The . . . steward acts in this way in order to ingratiate himself with the debtors because he knows he will be dismissed from the position . . . The parable, then, teaches the prudent use of one’s material goods in light of the imminent crisis. 

I am reflecting on if and how I have been a good steward of all I have been given.  Have I used my brains well?  Have I abused my physical, psychological or spiritual self in any way?  Do I struggle away from addiction rather than fall into it?  Have I done well with the fiscal gifts I have been given by God?  Have I shared my spiritual journey with others in a manner reflecting good stewardship?  Do I run my own tank too close to empty and then become upset or angry when tired?  Am I afraid to be countercultural?  Do I encourage myself and others to rise to the high bar set by the Gospel Values Jesus brings us through his Story?  Do I care for the poor, the marginalized, those without resources?  Do I conserve the gifts of nature?  Do I encourage others to do so as well?  Do I practice a good work ethic and do I advocate for myself and others in the work place?  Do I open my heart and my home to those needing physical and spiritual shelter?

This is a great deal to ponder and can be overwhelming.  So I take it in chunks so as not to discourage myself and further ill spend what I have been given.  For in the end, we all yearn to be good and faithful stewards.  Taking stock from time to time is a good thing.  Amending breaks where we can is commendable.  Turning away from an easy life of living from others’ work is the call we here today.  Owning up to our own deficits, making changes as we can, these are the mark of one who strives to live a life of prudent stewardship.

We might all ask ourselves these two questions . . . Am I living off of the fruits of someone else’s fiscal, emotional, psychological or spiritual work?  . . . Or do I stretch and strive and reach for the best self that God intended at my creation?

We can only know this if we take stock . . . make amends . . . and grow in God’s grace to be God’s hope to the world.

Written on October 8, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite. 

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Monday, March 5, 2012 – Luke 16 – Citizenship in the Kingdom

This a chapter in the story of Christ as told by Luke where we hear and see Jesus explaining mysteries; we also hear and see his followers trying to understand and to follow his instruction.  The chapter is book-ended by two parables: the Dishonest Servant – followed by an explication – and the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus – which is so clear it needs no further comment.  It only must be believed.

Sandwiched between these stories, Jesus speaks to the sneering Pharisees who are ardent followers of the Mosaic Law and the Prophets yet do not understand the concept of Jesus’ New Kingdom which the Prophet Isaiah has so clearly predicted.  In the heart of the chapter is are brief verses regarding marriage and divorce which are often held against those who must – for one reason or another – seek civil and church sanction to annul a bond thought to have been made in reverence.  We read these two simple verses in the context of Paul’s instruction on marriage in his letter to the Ephesians 5:21-32.  These words follow Paul’s thinking on our duty to live in the light in God’s kingdom.  They speak of mutual respect, mutual holiness, and mutual love.  They give us a view on reciprocated union as read differently in Colossians 3:18-25 where Paul writes about The Christian Family and Slaves and Masters.  Here he speaks about the significance of obedience to one’s vocation; and they reflect the thinking found in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-17 where he writes about holiness in sexual conduct, mutual charity, and hope for the Christian dead.  To the people of Colossae and of Thessalonica he speaks of the reciprocal character of all holy relationships, and the honor we bring to others, ourselves and our creator when we consider all relationships with the gravity they are due.  Jesus reiterates this idea.

When Moses gave permission for husbands to divorce their wives, he did so in order to prevent the murders which happened regularly when men grew tired of the women they had taken into homes and beds.  This sort of casual disregard for life and the lack of a mutually nurturing relationship is what Jesus addresses here in Luke and again in Matthew 5 and 19, and Mark 10.  He warns that flitting across the surface of our relationships will not prepare us properly for the life we are to live in this New Kingdom of which he speaks.

As we read this chapter, we might consider two thoughts here that will bring us to something new: perhaps the divorce which ends an abusive relationship is a saving moment of blessed grace, and perhaps each relationship into which we enter is as holy as a marriage in that it is meant to be nurtured in order to glorify God when the two parties strive to imitate God’s love rather than a superficial, self-serving demand on one another.

The lessons brought to us in this chapter of Luke remind us that kingdom work is constant; and it is present in every breath we take, every gesture we offer to one another. 

During this time of introspection we might want to consider the times we have been called to be stewards of not only money but of our emotional and spiritual resources.  Have we allowed our physical, spiritual and psychological assets to drain dangerously low?

During this time of examination we might also want to consider the many divorces we have entered into in our lives.  Have we walked away from organizations, communities, families and friends without following every avenue open to us at the time for remediation in ourselves and others?

During this time of Lent, we might want to spend time reflecting on the Laws we obey, the Kingdoms for which we seek citizenship.  What do our gestures tell us about what we hold important?  What air do we long to breath?  What prophets do we read?  What master do we follow?

Are we people who are trustworthy in small things so that we might enter into great ones?  We will find the answers to these questions by examining the fruit we bear back to the one who created us.

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