Sunday, September 22, 2019

The ‘Children of This World,’ the ‘Children of Light’—and the ‘Ungodly’

(Twenty-fifth Sunday of the Year (C): This homily was given on September 20, 2019 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Amos 8:4-7; Psalm 113:1-8; 1 Timothy 2:1-8; Luke 16: 1-13.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Twenty-fifth Sunday 2019]

Here we have a very strange parable from Luke 16—a parable that's extremely difficult to interpret.  And yet, I would say that this little story has a very important and timely message for all Americans of the early 21st century—especially all Catholic Americans.  It concerns a corrupt steward who was guilty of squandering his master's property.  That means quite simply that he was an embezzler.  His boss had given him authority to manage his estate, and he had deceitfully taken his boss “to the cleaners” in the process.  (The thought occurred to me the other day: perhaps this guy was a first century ancestor of Bernie Madoff.  Remember him?  He’s the financier who got a 150 year prison sentence in 2009 for taking his clients to the cleaners to the tune of over $50 billion dollars!)

Anyway, this steward in the parable finally gets caught with his hand in the till, and he's given the proverbial “boot.”   But before the boss dismisses him, he tells the embezzler to render an account of his stewardship. Now at this point, the corrupt steward knows two things for certain: he knows that his present job is history, and he knows that he'll soon be out on the street without any friends.  (You see, in first century Palestine, stewards like this were deeply hated, because they normally charged their master's debtors HUGE amounts of interest.)  So the crafty steward makes a very prudent decision: he decides to dispense with his “commission” in order to make some new friends.  He calls in his master's debtors, and tells them to pay only the amount that they owe the master.  Well, to put it mildly, those debtors must have been ecstatic to hear this news!  They probably said to the steward, “Wow, you're a great guy.  Thanks so much!  If you ever need a favor, if you ever need a job, just come and see us.”  At that, the steward probably responded (under his breath), “That's just what I was hoping you'd say.  You'll all be hearing from me very soon.”

At that point, the master commends the steward for “acting prudently”.  Not for being dishonest and embezzling his money, but rather for being “prudent” and enterprising.  The steward had a worldly goal (settling affairs with his master and providing for his future), and he did what was necessary within the law to achieve it.  Then Jesus offers this biting comment on the whole story: “For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.”  In other words, “People with worldly ambitions will do almost anything to achieve their goals: they'll make sacrifices, they'll plan, they'll study, they'll work extremely hard like this steward did.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if people of faith had as much zeal for the things of God?  Wouldn't it be wonderful if people of faith had as much concern about moral righteousness and about getting to heaven?!”

I really believe that Jesus told this parable in order to shake us and wake us up!  And boy, do we need a wake-up call right now in the United States of America!  Because in our culture at the present time it's not only the “children of this world” who take more initiative than the “children of light”—it's also the UNGODLY who outdo the children of light in zeal and determination.  Think of the zeal of militant atheists like Richard Dawkins and Bill Maher; think of the shameless leaders of Planned Parenthood, who’ve turned baby-killing in the United States into a multi-million dollar industry in recent decades.  When they were exposed a few years ago for selling fetal body parts, they should have been embarrassed and humiliated.  But they weren’t.  In fact, many of their leaders and supporters are more militant now than ever before!

Or how about the gay-rights activists in this country?  For the last 40 or so years, mostly through their willing accomplices in Hollywood and the media, they’ve effectively “de-sensitized” the majority of our citizens to the immorality of homosexual activity.  That took a lot of hard work—by a lot of people.  But they had the zeal and determination to do whatever needed to be done to change public opinion on the matter.  And for the most part, sad to say, they’ve succeeded.

The same thing is now happening with transgenderism.  Transgenderism used to be listed as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association.  Then, late in 2012, it was suddenly removed from the list.  And what incredible, monumental scientific discovery led to this radical change, you ask?

Well the truth is there was none.  There was no science behind the change.  The guys and gals at the American Psychiatric Association simply bowed to social and political pressure from those who wanted to make what’s abnormal seem normal.

And it’s only gotten worse since then.  Now we even have drag queens reading stories to little children in public libraries all over the country.  Now isn’t that a great way to help young people to understand their identity as male or female?

Can you imagine something like this happening 30 or 20—or even 10—years ago?

I can’t.

Those of us who want to be numbered among the children of light need to get a healthy dose of prudence and zeal ourselves—and we need to get it quickly, because western culture is decaying all around us very quickly.

And this all has to begin, I believe, in Catholic and Christian families, with parents who have prudence and zeal and who are willing to discuss these difficult issues with their children—so that their children will develop prudence and zeal in their young lives and not be taken in by the lies of the world.  Don’t count on their schools or colleges to do it!  Even though we have many great teachers out there, all too many of them these days are among those who are promoting the lies (and that includes many who teach at Catholic institutions!).  St. Paul says in today’s second reading that God wants everyone to be saved and to come to know the truth.  That truth should be learned first in a person’s family, and then it should be reaffirmed and reinforced in a person’s church—which is what we try to do here at St. Pius.  In fact, that’s one of the reasons why we’re starting youth group again next Sunday night at Junk and Java: we want to reaffirm and reinforce what these young people are hearing (hopefully) at home in their families.

“For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” 

That was true when Jesus walked the face of this earth 2,000 years ago; unfortunately it’s still true today.  But it doesn’t have to be true in the future!

At least for us, as individuals, it doesn’t have to be true.  By the grace of God, if we choose we can be more prudent and zealous and passionate and have more initiative than those who oppose us.  And, if enough of us—enough “children of light”—make this same choice, the decay can be stopped and the culture can be turned around and saved.

Which means that we have to do our part as individuals and as families; and then, as Msgr. Struck used to say, we have to “pray, pray, pray”!