Jesus says it clearly in the Gospel: “No servant can serve two masters…You cannot serve both God and mammon.” Two thousand years ago Jesus looked at the signs of his times and observed this truth—still a truth for our world today. He urged his disciples to be creative at being good by telling them the parable of the cheating steward who gets caught red-handed. The Steward knows he's going to be fired, he worries. He asks himself, “What shall I do?” He could grab the chance to turn his life around—but he doesn't—he looks after his own security and cheats even more, just to feather his own nest. He's shrewd, but he's not shrewd enough to practice virtue, not wise enough to change course and leave his self-serving ways behind. Granted, it's not easy to do; it never is. Whether it's a good habit or a bad habit, the longer we've had the habit, the harder it is to change.
In the routine of everyday life, it's rare that we take time to think about the long term, and so we end up making shortsighted choices. The untrustworthy steward in today's reading found himself so trapped in his vice that he couldn't come up with another kind of option, behavior. He applied his wit and energies to a fundamental option toward evil, serving only himself.
Jesus says that being trustworthy in small matters means you will be trustworthy in large ones—that the little things do count! A true disciple in every moral situation understands the opportunity to demonstrate holiness. Every dishonesty (however small) makes a liar of us; every decision of selfish interest is a step away from God and love, we end up making short-sighted choices and sealing ourselves in bad habits. We need to take the time to think in the long term. We suffer the consequences of our shortsightedness, but it's what we do afterward that forms our character. We can choose to keep doing the same thing, or we can resolve to change the habit. Being a follower of the Way of Jesus, we are called to live so that our daily choices form patterns of virtue that end up in our living a holier life. Karl Rahner (a German Jesuit priest and theologian who is considered to be one of the most influential Catholic Theologians of the 20th century) calls it a “fundamental option.” When we choose evil, and choose it over and over, we form habits that frame our “fundamental option” away from God. When we choose good, and choose it over and over, we form habits that frame our “fundamental option” towards God.
So here we are, two millennia after Jesus, living in a society that worships money and routinely spews a rhetoric of hatred.
Pope Francis puts it in strong words: the “unfettered pursuit of money” leaves behind the service of the common good and brings “pain, death, and destruction,” “the stench of the dung of the devil.” We are called to rise above the stench. The path requires that we keep ourselves turned toward the One God of all, not the money god of our culture, not the god of war and hate. When we find ourselves wandering off the path of virtue, we remind ourselves that new habits are formed the same way the old ones were, one choice at a time. That's how we end up following the commandment that matters: love God, love our neighbor.
So, fellow believers: HEAR THIS—small matters are practice for the big ones—no short cuts. HEAR THIS—Scripture tells us clearly how our choices are to be made. HEAR THIS—We Are Called to live justly and love deeply. HEAR THIS—you are your choices.
JUST A NOTE: It is not (and never) too late to join a ministry. If you enjoy singing or you play an instrument, please see me about getting involved in our St. Aidan Music Ministry. I am looking for all voice parts (children, men and women) and a variety of instrumentalists for our various ensembles. Come and see me after any mass, or email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.