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Sunday, September 18, 2016

Really good people

Here is the text of the homily I prepared for the weekly gathering of God's people.  Inspired by this Sunday's scripture readings, some thoughts about the struggle to overcome the constant tendency to be inward-looking and rather to focus on outward-focused concern for others.

Really good people

Throughout the time that I have spent so far in service to God’s people in this diocese, I have had the great fortune to meet some truly remarkable examples of the living disciples of Jesus.  As I read the words addressed by Saint Paul to Timothy in today’s second reading, I could envision some of these modern day followers of Jesus offering supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings (1 Tim 2:1) for the members of their families, for their pastors, for friends and colleagues.  We never know how many people are praying for us, but one thing is sure: we can always rely on the strength of their prayer.

People of deep prayer have sincere concern for others.  Sometimes they are fortunate enough to find their way into the limelight of society, but it is not what others see that is their .. or our greatest treasure.  True strength, true wisdom, true admiration is held for those who most often seek first and foremost to lead quiet and peaceable lives, going about their daily chores with a heartfelt sense of godliness and dignity (1 Tim 2:2).

When this inward peace is absent from the human heart, it is replaced with selfishness and with little or no regard for the good of others.  Evidence of this truth has been present throughout the history of mankind.  Some might say that selfishness and self-centredness trace their roots to the basic human instinct for survival, but there is something much greater than self-interest right here in our midst.  In fact, as we participate in the feast that Jesus offers for us at this table, we see the very power of self-giving love in action.

The power of love is found in the fact that it is never self-serving.  Instead, it is always aimed outward, toward someone else in need.  Jesus knew this very well.  He wanted to teach his disciples a new way, and so he used the parable that we heard in the gospel today.  The disciples would easily have been able to identify with the image of the rich man.  Rich men were common enough.  Like the wealthy of today, they were well known to most of society.  The man in Jesus’ story was so rich that he had a manager in his employ: someone to watch over his investments.  This practice too was relatively common, but also common was the unfortunate practice of inflating prices so that the poor would ultimately become poorer while the rich became richer and the middlemen took their cuts (cf Lk 16:1).

Everyone who has been entrusted with riches must be very careful about who they choose to manage their treasure, otherwise they run the risk of being branded with a bad reputation, but the rich man in Jesus’ story must have been a good man.  He could have chosen to immediately dismiss his manager, but rather he began by giving him a stern warning (Lk 16:2) and another chance.  This is what God does with all of us because at times, all of us are the dishonest manager, and God – the rich man – knows of our wrongdoing but he is infinitely merciful.  He is always willing to grant us a second chance to set things right.

When all is said and done, the same is true for us: we will all have to answer for the times that we have been dishonest with others.  Hopefully, these will be offset by the occasions when we have chosen to look beyond ourselves, to be instruments and guardians of the peace that is God's gift, and having recognized the needs of others, sought quickly to provide whatever assistance we can.
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