Faithful and Prudent Stewards of God’s Presence and Mysteries, 29th Wednesday (II), October 19, 2016

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Wednesday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Memorial of SS. Isaac Jogues, Jean de Brébeuf and Companions
October 19, 2016
Eph 3:2-12, Is 12:2-6, Lk 12:39-48

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today in the Gospel Jesus speaks about the characteristics of a “faithful and prudent steward” whom he implicitly contrasts with an unfaithful and imprudent one. The faithful and prudent steward has two basic qualities. First, he is vigilant for the Master’s presence and lives in such a way as if the Master is always present. Second, he gives to others the Master’s food at the proper time. The unfaithful and imprudent steward is one who says “My Master is delayed in coming” and instead of nourishing others starts to abuse them, beginning to “beat the menservants and maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk.” Jesus asks, “Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the Master will put in charge of his household?” and he wants us to be among them. He reminds us, “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” None of us has been entrusted with “little,” but “much” and “more.” But the Lord wants us to recognize the gifts we have received and be good stewards of them in giving to others of the storehouse with which he has entrusted us.
  • In today’s first reading, St. Paul said to the converted pagans in Ephesus described in great depth the type of stewardship that a faithful and prudent servant carries out. “You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for your benefit,” he wrote. “Of this I became a minister by the gift of God’s grace… to preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ and to bring to light for all what is the plan of the mystery hidden from ages past in God, … so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the Church.” The gift he had received that he needed to dispense as food to others is that the “Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same Body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.” It’s Christ’s salvific will. And he knew that he had been given “even more” for this task, and that’s why he was speaking “with boldness of speech and confidence of access through faith in [Christ].”
  • This stewardship of the revelation of the Lord and the need to dispense it to others is the deep background for the feast we celebrate today. The eight Jesuits whom we call the North American Martyrs had the task, in the early 1600s, to bring the Gospel, the treasure of the mystery hidden in times past, to New France, which encompassed most of eastern Canada as well as some of the areas of upstate New York. Practically speaking, it meant carrying the word of Jesus Christ to the native Americans — the Hurons, the Mohawks, the Iroquois — who by the time the Jesuits arrived in 1625 had already earned a reputation for resisting missionaries and making them martyrs. St. Jean de Brébeuf was one of the first Jesuits to arrive in 1625 at the age of 31. Earlier, he had been rendered an invalid by tuberculosis, but having recovered his strength, he wanted to use the health he had to pass on the treasure of the faith, becoming rich in what matters to God and seeking to help the natives likewise grow in that richness. As soon as he arrived, he began to study the difficult Huron language. Over the course of three years of hard work, living alone among the Indians, with much suffering and constant danger, he did not gain a single convert. When England took over Canada in 1629, he was summoned back to France. It would have been easy for him to say he had paid his dues and spend the rest of his life at the Jesuit institutions of Europe, but when France re-obtained title to the Canadian colonies four years later, he was on the first boat back. For 16 more years he labored about the Hurons, with his perilous adventures covered in detail in The Jesuit Relations. He would drag his canoe and bags over mountains and valleys for miles, going from location to location, wherever the Hurons were. His apostolate began to bear fruit, especially with the young. In 1649, the Iroquois attacked the village where he was stationed and he was sentenced to death. His death is about as gruesome as that of any missionary ever recorded. He was stripped naked and beaten with clubs on every part of their body. Then they cut off his hands, applied white-hot tomakawks to his armpits and groin, and fastened searing sword blades around his neck. Next, they covered him with bark soaked in pitch and resin and lit him on fire. During all of this, as the eyewitness account records in The Jesuit Relations, he continued to encourage and exhort the Christian converts around him to remain faithful. To stop his preaching, the savages then plugged up his mouth, tore off his lips, cut off his nose, and then, in mockery of baptism, put him in a tub of boiling water. They proceeded next to cut off his flesh, roast it and eat it in front of him. The final blow came when they sliced open his chest and ripped out his beating, valiant heart, so that they could drink his blood when it was still warm. To the world his life was a waste, his talents had gone for naught, he would have been able to make a difference elsewhere but it would have seemed his life was a failure. But out of all the financiers who lived in the 1600s, how many do we remember? How many are considered important in what matters to God in heaven? He was a faithful and prudent steward to the very end and has been rewarded as the Lord’s good and trustworthy servant sharing his Master’s joy.
  • The missionary life and death of Isaac Jogues are similarly inspiring examples of what it means to be a “servant of Christ and a steward of the mysteries of God.” He arrived in New France in 1636 at the age of 29. His hard work among the Hurons bore fruit; in 1637, he rejoiced to baptize 200. In 1642, the Iroquois attacked the village where he was. He was beaten to the ground with clubs, and then had his hair, beard and nails torn away and forefingers bitten off. He was then made a slave. Eventually, he was rescued by the Dutch and sent back to France, where he was greeted both with both pity and as a hero. Because he no longer had the fingers to hold the Sacred Host, he was technically incapable of celebrating Mass, until Pope Urban VIII gave him a special dispensation. “It would be unjust that a martyr for Christ,” Urban said, “should not drink the blood of Christ.” Despite all that he had suffered, however, when the opportunity came to return to New France in early 1644, he jumped at the chance. It didn’t take long for him to receive his imperishable wreath and cash in the great portfolio of faith he had amassed through so many deeds of faith. He was ambushed at a meal by the Mohawks, who tomahawked him as he was entering the cabin. They cut off his head and placed it on a pole facing the direction from which he had come, as a warning to other missionaries.  But what the Mohawks were not planning on was that the blood of Jogues, Brébeuf and the six other North American martyrs would soften and fertilize the Indian soil to receive the Gospel. At the very place where Jogues was killed in Auriesvilles, New York, ten years later Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha would be born. Even though they didn’t experience many conversions during their missionary work, the North American Martyrs’ heroic deaths, perseverance in the faith, and zeal for the salvation of their torturers would become renown not just in the Christian world, but even among the sadistic executioners. When the next wave of courageous missionaries arrived, they would Christianize almost every tribe they encountered. The blood of the martyrs is indeed the seed of Christians. The wealth of a faith until the point of death continues to pay dividends. And we continue to grow in faith in the state that St. Isaac’s blood sanctified.
  • “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more,” Jesus said at the end of today’s Gospel. We have been entrusted with the greatest riches of all in Jesus’ body and blood in Holy Communion. The Son of Man comes not only at an hour we do not expect but very punctually at an hour we do, each day in daily Mass. And he wishes to do in us what the North American Jesuit Martyrs allowed him to do in them, so that we who have been entrusted with much may meet the demand flowing from those great riches —  letting the springs of “living water” overflow to give others what the love of God they always need no matter the time.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 eph 3:2-12

Brothers and sisters:
You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace
that was given to me for your benefit,
namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation,
as I have written briefly earlier.
When you read this
you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ,
which was not made known to human beings in other generations
as it has now been revealed
to his holy Apostles and prophets by the Spirit,
that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same Body,
and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.
Of this I became a minister by the gift of God’s grace
that was granted me in accord with the exercise of his power.
To me, the very least of all the holy ones, this grace was given,
to preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ,
and to bring to light for all what is the plan of the mystery
hidden from ages past in God who created all things,
so that the manifold wisdom of God
might now be made known through the Church
to the principalities and authorities in the heavens.
This was according to the eternal purpose
that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord,
in whom we have boldness of speech
and confidence of access through faith in him.

Responsorial Psalm is 12:2-3, 4bcd, 5-6

R. (see 3) You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.
God indeed is my savior;
I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
With joy you will draw water
at the fountain of salvation.
R. You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.
Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name;
among the nations make known his deeds,
proclaim how exalted is his name.
R. You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.
Sing praise to the LORD for his glorious achievement;
let this be known throughout all the earth.
Shout with exultation, O city of Zion,
for great in your midst
is the Holy One of Israel!
R. You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.

Gospel lk 12:39-48

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be sure of this:
if the master of the house had known the hour
when the thief was coming,
he would not have let his house be broken into.
You also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
Then Peter said,
“Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?”
And the Lord replied,
“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward
whom the master will put in charge of his servants
to distribute the food allowance at the proper time?
Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so.
Truly, I say to you, he will put him
in charge of all his property.
But if that servant says to himself,
‘My master is delayed in coming,’
and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants,
to eat and drink and get drunk,
then that servant’s master will come
on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour
and will punish the servant severely
and assign him a place with the unfaithful.
That servant who knew his master’s will
but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will
shall be beaten severely;
and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will
but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating
shall be beaten only lightly.
Much will be required of the person entrusted with much,
and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”
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