Blue skies, nothing but blue skies do I see

Tom Bartolomeo
25th Sunday Ordinary C 2013
Amos 8, 4-7; Psalm 113;
Timothy 2, 1-8; Luke 16, 1-13
Reproduced with Permission

Recently, while at a friend's home I noticed an unfinished 1000 piece puzzle spread out on a table about 80 percent finished. All that was left to complete the puzzle, the "Space Shuttle Take-off", was a large number of blue pieces of sky above the shuttle at lift-off. All the other multi-colored pieces were put together, the shuttle, the plumb of fire and smoke at lift-off and the other recognizable objects, but the pieces of sky were absent from the scene. If the puzzle is completed it will take much, much more effort putting together those hundreds of pieces of blue sky. There is a plan somewhere which has all the pieces of the puzzle properly assembled.

We humans live our lives in bits and pieces, a puzzle of sorts. The puzzle like our lives may eventually be taken apart and packed up for another day for completion. Maybe. We could take the pieces of the puzzle and throw them on a table and God would instantaneously know not only where all the pieces go but why. Many of you may find the gospel parable of the unjust steward puzzling as did many in Jesus' time even his Apostles before their conversion. Why then didn't Jesus teach plainly rather then in parables? Jesus knew, however, that many would choose not to understand. Maybe God knows that some here may choose not to accept today's parable no matter how clearly it is explained. The Apostles, for instance, were once puzzled about such matters when Jesus told them:

He who has ears to hear, let him hear. And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, 'To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven'. And he said to them, 'Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? (Mark 4, 9-13).

Jesus then proceeded to explain to them the meaning of the parable of the sower and the seed. I suspect that thereafter they had to work out their own understanding of his parables, had to be receptive to his teachings. We, too, with God's help need to understand the word of God with open and natural hearts, not the hardened hearts of the Apostles at the start and so many others in the beginning. For instance, after witnessing the multiplication of loaves for the hungry crowd who had followed Jesus, Mark in his gospel confessed, that when Jesus "got into the boat with them [to leave] . . . they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, for their hearts were hardened. (Mark 6:51-53).

Are any of us here "puzzled" by the parable of the unjust steward? Why would Jesus commend the steward, some would think, who squandered his employer's property and bribed his way into the good graces of his employer's customers? Perhaps those who would not want to understand Jesus included, "lest they turn and should be forgiven." Jesus was commending the steward's resourcefulness not his thievery and dishonesty. The steward had led a double life pretending one thing and living another. He was simply serving himself, and some Catholics mostly those who are not here do the same. Long before I was ordained I employed a number of people. I remember one young man whom I had caught stealing and would have prosecuted, but for the sake of his mother whom I knew I only fired him and did not have him arrested. When I explained this to him he was relieved and displayed no sense of remorse. Many people we should know equate guilt and remorse with being caught not with any genuine sorrow and contrition.

I recently saw the movie, Trust, which I recommend that you see. Intended or not it is a thought provoking parable comparable to the parables Jesus taught. (All Jesus' parables are about the kingdom of heaven - not about agriculture, "sowing seed" or business, "employee theft.") Jesus taught as we heard that, "You can not serve both God and the world." The movie or the parable, Trust, tells the story of a family, dad, mom and a teenage girl who is beguiled by an older man who takes advantage of her. The teenager's parents are decent people concerned for their daughter's welfare. Yet this terrible thing happens to their daughter. Some, wrongly, would think they should have watched and questioned her more assiduously about her goings on as if that would be totally possible with a growing teenager. Some would sadly and unnecessarily concede that such terrible things will happen to their children despite their best efforts, and partially they would be right.

Their lives, however, mom, dad and a teenage daughter were all about the things of this world, the individual's "pride of life" which the Apostle John so forcefully wrote about. "Pride of life" in this world does not endear us to our original father and brother. Soon infected by its disorder parents introduce the pride of life into the lives of their children especially worldly competitive achievements unrelated to the kingdom of heaven spoken of in the parables. Soon parents accommodate their lives to the values of the things in the world, not distinguishing what may lead to no good. Or they may negotiate some 'benign' accommodation to the way things are until some event or series of events confuse and bewilder them. Until then they forget the personal spiritual dangers we all face in this world which Jesus took once and for all and nailed to a cross for all to see. Jesus would teach us that even when evil infects us it may only infect us bodily not spiritually, if we truly trust in God. The individual family members in the movie as so many families today relentlessly pursued each's own passing diversion or achievements for themselves - extra curricular, extra spiritual solitary interests - individual achievements of the pride of life which isolate them from each other and from God. No matter how good a mom or dad you are or think you are - you can not save yourselves or your children from injuries in this world, but you can enjoin yourselves, mom, dad and teenage daughter or son and prepare yourselves for His world while in this world. You -- mom, dad and teenage daughter or son - can not claim to be Christian and Catholic and ignore the things in God's world for the things in this world and expect any peace in this world and the world to come. Had the mom, dad and teenage daughter in the movie established a relationship with God as individuals within a family they may not have averted the evil that entered their lives but they would have found a saving refuge in Christ, their brother and their Father in heaven had they pursued this.