Seeing Our Lives as Weapons of Righteousness, 29th Wednesday (I), October 25, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Wednesday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
October 25, 2017
Rom 6:12-18, Ps 124, Lk 12:39-48

 

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

 

The following points were attempted in the homily:
  • Peter today asks Jesus, “Is this parable meant for us or for everyone?” There was the implication that the apostles or others might be exempt from the lessons. Sometimes we can think ourselves exempt from really paying attention to what the Lord is asking, as if the Lord’s call to conversion is primarily directed to others. But the Lord is always speaking for us and for others, and we need to listen to everything as words to be done, so that we can become what he describes later in this passage, faithful and prudent stewards investing his word and passing this way of life on to others.
  • To understand today’s Gospel better, we can begin with yesterday’s, when Jesus spoke to us of the two essential Christian dispositions and actions: to be vigilant with lamps lit for his perpetual coming and to have our loins girt, ready to work and to be sent out by him to finish the job he started of the salvation of the world. Today he reemphasizes those two points in the Gospel when he speaks about the qualities of a faithful and prudent steward. First about lamps lit, he tells us to “be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” The Lord is, as Mary of Bethany said, constantly “coming into the world.” The unfaithful disciple says, “My master is delayed in coming,” and the devil is constantly trying to get us to think that the Master is delayed, that he’s not already here. But he is here and the good and faithful steward acts as if he were aware of the Lord’s presence. Second about loins girt, Jesus says that the faithful and prudent steward “distribute[s] the food at the proper time.” God has fed us, he’s enriched us, and he wants us to love others with those gifts. The devil, after he’s seduced us to think that our life is meant to be lived apart from the Master, gets us instead to “beat the men servants and the maidservants,” “to get drunk,” and in short to sin. Rather than serving others and caring for their needs, both spiritual and material, he tries to get us to hurt them. He’s also tries to get us to forget that we’re really stewards called to account.
  • St. Paul picks up these themes in the first reading. He talks about two types of slavery, slavery to sin, featured by presenting our “bodies to sin as weapons of wickedness” and consecration to God where by we present ourselves to God “as raised from the dead to life and the parts of your bodies as weapons for righteousness.” I love this phrase. Our bodies, which are sacraments of who we are body-and-soul, are meant to glorify God, to be given to God and in God to others. So often, however, we allow our bodies to be slaves to sin, and give ourselves to sinfulness. We see this when people get drunk. We see it when people are addicted to pleasure or to sex or to power or to their egos. By Jesus’ action, he has set us free from this slavery. We can’t be passive, however, to this gift: Jesus risen from the dead has brought us fully alive through baptism and he wants us in return to present our bodies to him as risen from the dead, living a new life.
  • St. Paul helps us to see that our lives are meant to be weapons. Our thoughts, words and actions can be  “weapons of wickedness,” making others’ lives worse or miserable; or we can use them as “weapons of righteousness,” lifting people up. What’s it going to be? In Psalm 36, which we prayed this morning in Morning Prayer, we pondered the evil one who sits on his bed at night plotting the defeat of goodness. We’re called to plot the triumph of goodness, to seek to use our lives, together with and in response to God’s action, to build up his kingdom. Our charity is not supposed to be “spontaneous,” even though random acts of kindness are good. It ought to be planned, “plotted.” Our life is a weapon that we can and should use for good. It’s important for us to be practical about creating havoc for the devil each day, by thinking God’s thoughts, by lavishing true compliments and praise to others, by serving them with love in our deeds and helping them to feel the tender caress of God. God wants us to be a weapon in this way.
  • The devil, moreover, if he can’t get us to serve in his army, is at least going to tempt us to think that all we’re playing with is a cap gun, that we don’t have much to offer. But Jesus addresses that at the end of the parable when he says, not, “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and little will be demanded of the person entrusted with little.” Rather he says, “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” We’ve all been entrusted with lavish gifts, filled to overflowing. Others may have more than we think we have, but we’ve still be blessed with much. Others may be multibillionaires, but we’re still billionaires. And God wants us to spend what he’s given us! Sometimes people are tempted to think that they’re, “useless,” that they have nothing to offer. Today Jesus and St. Paul are both telling us we have a lot to offer.
  • Today as we come forward to Mass to meet Christ who constantly comes, who has offered us his body, blood, soul and divinity as a weapon against the work of the devil to make us righteous, wants us to meet him by presenting our bodies as risen from the dead and as a weapon for them to use to destroy the kingdom of darkness and bring about his kingdom of light. Later on in the Letter to the Romans, St. Paul will tell us, “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable, your spiritual worship” (Rom 12:1-2). That’s exactly what we seek to do at Mass. Pope Benedict once said to the young people of the world that what happens in the Mass can be compared to a nuclear explosion — and that idea is not hyperbole but even still short of the mark, because what happens at Mass as far more energy even than all the nuclear bombs on the planet. But we can stick with the image. What happens here is a nuclear detonation. The Lord seeks to fill us with his energy, and then he sends us out, with loins gift, as faithful and prudent stewards, as weapons of righteousness, to blow up the world!

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
ROM 6:12-18

Brothers and sisters:
Sin must not reign over your mortal bodies
so that you obey their desires.
And do not present the parts of your bodies to sin
as weapons for wickedness,
but present yourselves to God as raised from the dead to life
and the parts of your bodies to God
as weapons for righteousness.
For sin is not to have any power over you,
since you are not under the law but under grace.
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law
but under grace?
Of course not!
Do you not know that if you present yourselves
to someone as obedient slaves,
you are slaves of the one you obey,
either of sin, which leads to death,
or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
But thanks be to God that, although you were once slaves of sin,
you have become obedient from the heart
to the pattern of teaching to which you were entrusted.
Freed from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 124:1B-3, 4-6, 7-8

R. (8a) Our help is in the name of the Lord.
Had not the LORD been with us,
let Israel say, had not the LORD been with us–
When men rose up against us,
then would they have swallowed us alive;
When their fury was inflamed against us.
R. Our help is in the name of the Lord.
Then would the waters have overwhelmed us;
The torrent would have swept over us;
over us then would have swept the raging waters.
Blessed be the LORD, who did not leave us
a prey to their teeth.
R. Our help is in the name of the Lord.
We were rescued like a bird
from the fowlers’ snare;
Broken was the snare,
and we were freed.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
R. Our help is in the name of the Lord.

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.”