Engaging the Gospel – Luke 16:1-13

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C): Gospel – Luke 16:1-13

Parable of the dishonest steward

Recent Gospel readings have featured recurring themes from St. Luke – the radical demands of discipleship as well as the superabundance of God’s mercy – and today’s reading highlights another recurring theme, the right use of our material goods.

The Gospel turns on the distinction between worldly riches, which are fleeting, and the true wealth of eternal life. Jesus calls worldly riches “dishonest wealth,” reminding us that it cannot ultimately satisfy.

As human beings, we are “created by God and for God,” so “only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for” (Catechism paragraph 27).

If we seek that happiness in money and possessions, we will be disillusioned. Worse still, if our lives are consumed by the pursuit of material things, we risk losing our only real treasure, our relationship with God – a choice summed up starkly in Jesus’ warning that we “cannot serve both God and mammon.”

To be open to receiving God’s gift of everlasting spiritual wealth, we must put our worldly goods to use in a spirit of generosity:

All Christians should be ready and eager to come to the help of the needy and of their neighbors in want. A Christian is a steward of the Lord’s goods (952).

The faithful also have the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his abilities (2043).

Question for reflection: How have I learned that material things don’t really satisfy?

Engaging the Gospel – Mark 12:38-44

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – Mark 12:38-44

The widow’s mite

Unlike the self-serving scribes, who are more interested in prestige and human respect, the poor widow in this Gospel has a self-giving attitude: she wants to contribute what she can, however small, to the Temple treasury.

The Gospel harmonizes with today’s first reading from 1 Kings, highlighting another poor widow who exhibits radical trust in God: the widow of Zarephath is down to her last bit of flour, but still feeds the prophet Elijah from it. She puts her in faith in his word that they will not be lacking, and God does indeed provide.

Jesus commends the poor widow for her offering, given in a similar spirit of reliance on the Lord, despite her poverty. She exemplifies generosity, as well as the moral virtue of justice, “the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. Justice toward God is called the ‘virtue of religion’” (Catechism paragraph 1807), whereby love “leads us to render to God what we as creatures owe Him in all justice” (2095).

In keeping with our obligation to give God and neighbor their due, “the faithful also have the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his abilities” (2043). “From the very beginning, Christians have brought, along with the bread and wine for the Eucharist, gifts to share with those in need” (1351).

Question for reflection: When have I made a financial sacrifice out of love for God?

Engaging the Gospel – Mark 10:17-30

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – Mark 10:17-30

In today’s Gospel, the young man seemed so eager to ask Jesus about gaining eternal life. But his attachment to his material possessions proved a stumbling block. When given the opportunity to commit himself radically to Jesus, he chose his wealth instead.

The young man’s reaction brings up a larger point about discipleship. We’re not all called to give up everything. Yet we are called to put the Lord first in all things, including the use of our goods. If our lives revolve around consumerism, we’re actually putting wealth first, in place of God.

“Detachment from riches is necessary for entering the Kingdom of heaven” (Catechism paragraph 2556). Hence “the Lord grieves over the rich because they find their consolation in the abundance of goods” (2547).

“Jesus enjoins His disciples to prefer Him to everything and everyone,” to enter into what the Catechism describes as “poverty of heart” (2544):

All Christ’s faithful are to direct their affections rightly, lest they be hindered in their pursuit of perfect charity by the use of worldly things and by an adherence to riches which is contrary to the spirit of evangelical poverty.

— Catechism paragraph 2545.

Question for reflection: In what ways am I too attached to material things?