Gospel according to St. Luke: Jesus said to his disciples, “A rich man had a steward who was reported to him for squandering his property. He summoned him and said, ‘What is this I hear about you? Prepare a full account of your stewardship, because you can no longer be my steward.”
Spiritual awakening is frequently described as a journey to the top of the mountaintop. At the peak we have transcended all pain. We experience the transfiguration of Jesus and the voice of God, “This is my Beloved Son with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him!” The only problem with this mountaintop experience is that we leave all the others behind—our drunken brother, our schizophrenic sister, our tormented animals, friends and Mother Earth. Their suffering continues, unrelieved by our personal escape. Jesus heads back down the mountain before we are ready.
In the process of discovering our compassionate heart, the journey goes down, not up. It’s as if the mountain pointed toward the center of the earth instead of reaching into the sky. Instead of transcending the suffering of all creatures, we move toward the turbulence and doubt. We jump into it. We slide into it. We tiptoe into it. We move toward it however we can. We explore the reality and unpredictability of insecurity and pain, and we try not to push it away. If it takes years, if it takes lifetimes, we let it be as it is. At our own pace, without speed or aggression, we move down and down and down.
Jesus calls out to us amidst the descent, darkness and chaos. “Come and follow!” “Don’t be afraid!” “Put out into the deep waters and lower your nets!” “Get out of the boat and walk on the stormy seas!” “Give them some food yourselves!” “Do not be afraid as we walk into the room where your dead child lies.” “Forgive those who hurt you.” “Today you will be with me in Paradise!”
This parable is for each of us. It helps us to realize our own sin, our neglect of the poor and the suffering. This unloving state we are in can be corrected by going down the mountain and realizing that we are too weak to dig and too ashamed to beg. With us move millions of others, our companions in awakening from fear. At the bottom we discover water, the healing water of the compassionate heart. Right down there in the thick of things, we discover the love that will not die.
Every Sunday we receive a drop of blood from the side of Jesus. Jesus says that unless we eat his body and drink his blood we will have no life… eternal life! I reckon after many years and drops of blood consumed from the side of Jesus, our hearts are more that of Jesus than ourselves.
God has given me a new heart and a new spirit. I hear Jesus say to me, “Ron Moses, don’t focus on the jerk who crushed your sand castle. After all, it is only sand. Enjoy the beach, sky, breath and surf!!”
Jesus goes on to say, “No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.”
The Hebrew definition of ‘mammon’ is ‘what one trusts in.’ This is interesting because every coin and monetary bill has the motto of our nation, ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’. Jesus knew that Pharisees and the rich trusted in their wealth more than God. We might be the same. They were slaves to their wealth. And the poor were slaves to them. Scriptures are quite clear that the borrower is slave to the lender. The Lord’s prayer says, Forgive us our debts as we forgive the debt of others. We are all indebted either emotionally, monetarily or both. And thus we are all enslaved. Jesus sets us free. The world and godless people keep us enslaved.
If we hear Jesus call us to follow him, we will be with the poor. We will eat with the poor. We will fall in love with the poor. We will actually learn to beg for the poor.
God teaches us to give 10% of our first fruits
…but God is encouraging us to give it all away, 100%
God is more concerned with our 90%,
but God can do nothing until we commit the first 10%.
Much has been given. Much is expected. We are merely stewards.
If God can trust us stewards with 10% (just a little)
Then God can entrust us with much more.
If God cannot trust us with 10%, God will not let us squander more of his love.
We will suffer needlessly in this world if we do not learn how to work with God in all things.
The great Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, sang before the crucifix every day. He wanted to be a missionary priest more than anything, but God needed his heart and mind to stay in Rome for greater things. God foresaw that one of the Jesuits of his order would one day become Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome.
All Jesuits know this prayer. How about you?
Take Lord, receive, all I have and possess
My memory, understanding, my entire will
Give me only your love and your grace, that’s enough for me
Your love and your grace, that’s enough for me.
This is your homework this week. Learn this prayer. Then sing this prayer with all your heart before the crucifix. Sing it every morning before you start your day. Allow it to wash over you like the rising tide or the ocean breeze. Let it sink into your being like rain into the rich soil. Observe how your heart is more like Jesus, more in love with the suffering and the poor.
Jesus seems to indicate that we are all stewards of God’s bountiful gifts. We are all given the position of stewards as the U.S. Catholic Bishops declare in their letter A Disciple’s Response. When each of us dies, and we will all die, God will ask us to prepare a full account of our stewardship, because we can no longer be God’s stewards. What has our Master heard about each of us? How will each of us respond?
The really good news is that God will be pleased if we are found with the suffering, the lowly, the orphans and the poor.
Take Beloved, receive, all I have and possess; my memory, my understanding, my entire will.
Give me only your love and your grace. That’s enough for me.
(Special thanks to thoughts from When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron 2000)