EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Stewards of the Resources of God
Today’s Liturgy of the Word, in summary, reads like a Temporalities Act – only that, it is neither civil nor political but divinely inspired to caution the children of God to use wisely the temporalities of the world as their servants and aids towards their salvation and perfection.
This divine Act does not discriminate against wealth or self-love or self-preservation – since the second greatest commandment mandates that we love our neighbour as ourselves. Instead, it cautions the children of God against the misuse of God’s gifts to inflate their ego, to distort human judgment, harden their heart, and drag themselves into a form of reckless complacency, or exploitation that will lead them down the path to self-destruction.
Sirach is particularly forceful in his instruction that temporalities are just what they are “Vanity of vanities”, simply translated to mean “smoke or trivial” in comparison to the human soul and human dignity and integrity. The souls, dignity and integrity of the human person are irreplaceable. They take precedence over every material aspect in the world. The proper use of the temporalities of this world as divine gifts is like sowing the seeds of integrity. Thus, when we depart from the principles of the divine Act we dirty the divine apparel we received at Baptism and that will deprive us of participation in the divine wedding (Matt.22:11-13).
Christ, for his part cautions his listeners: when wealth becomes an obsession, it is a distraction for the soul and an impediment for salvation. How? The individual becomes oblivious of his/her mortality. The focus changes from the three last things: death, dissolution and judgment to a reckless complacency. There is a false perception that sustained wealth will determine the longevity and quality of human life. Christ is vocal in his chastisement of this deception. He refers to us as fools when such happens. Pay attention to how he addressed the individual who entertained this fallacy: “Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then (Lk.12:20)?”
Remember, death has no preference. The righteous and the sinner both can die young (Sir.4:7-15). However, wisdom can teach us the value of prudence in anticipation of the end (Ps.90). We must always live in anticipation of death. Do not decisive ourselves as this man did in today’s gospel. All things are transient – even our physical presence here. Our true native land and inheritance are the kingdom (Phil.3:20).
Paul, in the second reading, endorses everything expounded on by Sirach and Christ Jesus. As Children of God, Paul urged us "You must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand (Col.3:1).” In other words, as children of God in the world, only if we use our material assets to be good stewards to poor, the captives, the blind, the oppressed and be a voice of hope to the hopeless (Lk.4:18) will our soul transcend with Christ. Otherwise, we will be like the fool in today’s gospel. We will suffer the same fate with the goats on Judgment Day (Matt.25:41-46).
In summary, keep this in mind: tittle deeds are only promissory notes for good stewardship of the resources placed at our disposal to be good stewards of God on earth. Use them and invest them wisely. They are loans given to us on trust. Therefore, let us guard ourselves against bloated egos in the face of material wealth.
Lord, make me a selfless servant like you.