25th Sunday OT and Feast of St. Matthew:
Today in the gospel we hear something we expect: you cannot serve both God and mammon. But, we also hear something we do not expect: the master commended the dishonest steward for acting prudently. I think we all know by now the dangers inherent in money. Money is a tool, it is neutral of itself. However, it is an extremely sharp and delicate tool. Think of all the good you can do with money: support your family, serve the poor, support the parish, etc. But, the more one handles money, the easier it is to slip and be hurt by this tool. It is easy to give in to the prevailing culture of consumerism. It is easy to think that our worth depends on how much we have. It is easy to think that we need the bigger house, the nicer car, the cushy life. Falling for this mentality is quite harmful for our spiritual life. Jesus is exactly right, pursuit of wealth for its own sake becomes a religion with money as its god, making it impossible to follow Christ.
St. Matthew is a great model and inspiration for us. Do you remember the story? St. Matthew was seated at his customs post, he was a tax collector. In the Bible, a tax collector is synonymous with a person who has bought into the consumerist mentality. They were known for defrauding others. They would charge more than was necessary for the tax and keep what was left for themselves. Yet, when Jesus approached him and told him to follow him, Matthew left behind his job, his wealth, his unhealthy attachment to money, and he followed after Christ. If you ever struggle with consumerism, ask St. Matthew to pray for you.
But, the other part of the gospel is a bit more troubling. It sounds like Jesus is asking us to be dishonest. We get the example of that crooked steward who knows his days are numbered. So he calls in his boss's customers, rips off his boss to try to find favor with the customers. How is this an example of Christian living? Jesus explains: the children of this world are more prudent than the sons of light. In other words if we look around us we see many examples of people working hard to attain their goals. Think, for example, of world class athletes: they put in long, hard hours to attain their goals. They push themselves, straining to achieve success on a football field. And they do all this for something that is passing: a football game, for example. Yet, do we work that hard for something that is eternal, our eternal life? Jesus is telling us that we should use all of our human ingenuity, our drive, our prudence, our cunning, not only for our own advancement, but also for the spreading of the gospel. We often use our gifts and skills to succeed in work, sports, or society; but, do we use them for the promotion of the gospel?
Again, St. Matthew is our model. St. Matthew was an educated man. We know this because he was able to write, only a few could write in those days. This made Matthew one on the upper echelon of society. But, instead of using his skills only for his own promotion, he decided to use his gifts and skills for the promotion of the gospel. And look at the result! For 2000 years now Christians have been reading his gospel as a way to grow closer to Christ. At one point in his life St. Matthew was this dishonest steward, using his gifts and skills for his own good; but, after his encounter with Christ he felt it necessary to use his talents for the promotion of the gospel.
How is God calling you to service? I am absolutely sure that each and every one of you has some special gift, some special skill, that God wants at his service. We might be tempted to use these gifts for our own good, but through the prayers and example of St. Matthew we should put them to use for the gospel.
St. Matthew is our patron saint. This means that our parish should take on the personality of its patron. We too should strive to serve God, not money. To put our gifts at the service of the gospel. If the things we do take us away from our relationship with God, we need to leave them behind and follow the Lord. Ask St. Matthew to pray for us, to help us all leave behind our customs post and follow the Lord.