September 22, 2019 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time Deacon Steve Whiteman

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
In 1963, Monty Hall hosted a new game show on television called: “Let’s Make a Deal”. As you may remember, each episode included several “deals” between the host and “players” from the audience. The host usually started by offering a small prize the player could take home right away or the opportunity to trade for a more valuable prize. If the player chose to risk the small prize, for the chance to win the bigger prize, they had to choose between: Door #1, Door #2 or Door #3. The right choice could win them something nice like a car or trip. The wrong choice gave them a consolation prize like a live goat or a pile of fake money.

Our readings today reminded me of “Let’s Make a Deal”. The dishonest steward in our Gospel reading scrambles to make deals with his master’s debtors before he loses his job. The master had discovered the steward was squandering his property and plans to fire him. The steward shrewdly re-negotiates his master’s loans in an effort to win support from all of the debtors. The steward essentially uses his master’s money to store up favors that he can exploit after he loses his job.

Have we ever had a version of Let’s Make a Deal in our own lives?

When we find ourselves in trouble, it can be tempting to play “Let’s Make a Deal” with God. If we, or someone in our family is suffering, our 1st instinct might be a negotiation that sounds something like this: Dear God, if You get us out of this situation…I promise to…fill in the blank:

  • I promise to go to Reconciliation…or
  • I promise to never miss Mass again…or
  • I promise to be nice to my grouchy neighbor.

These situations may certainly have value in our faith life if they are a turning point that leads us closer to God. Many of us have had “wake up calls” in our lives that provided a new perspective on our faith and mortality.

The challenge we need to avoid is falling into a recurring cycle in our faith life that runs hot and cold. We shouldn’t think of God as a vending machine where we get a treat every time, we put our money in or say the right prayer. God wants a close relationship with us every day, not just on weekends, holidays or when we have a crisis.

Unfortunately, our culture and environment can lead us away from a stable faith life. We live in a time and a place that offers so many choices and opportunities. We can pick from a large variety of careers, hobbies, entertainment and sports events. When I was growing up there was Crest toothpaste, Ivory soap and 4 channels on the TV. Those limited choices don’t necessarily stabilize a person’s faith life, but our consumer driven society can produce sporadic behavior and lead us into sinful spending habits.

Our Gospel is clear about our choices: No servant can serve two masters. 
He will either hate one and love the other or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon."

Mammon is often translated as money or material wealth. The literal definition for mammon is “that in which one trusts.” This suggests a couple of questions we can reflect on when making choices in our everyday life:

  • What is my motivation for making this choice?
  • Am I putting my trust in God when I make this choice?

These aren’t the questions needed when choosing a toothpaste, but they might be the right questions to ask when buying a house or a car. If we find ourselves spending a lot of free time devoted to a single activity, we might want to question the underlying motivation: is this activity helping me to grow in my relationship with God and my family or is it a distraction?

It’s often said that a person’s true priorities are revealed in how they choose to spend their time and money. If we kept track of how we spend our free time and money, would there be any surprises or adjustments we need to make? Consider an exercise this week to do that. Let us keep some simple notes each day about how free time and money are spent and see if there are any opportunities for improvement.

I used to bring a lot of work home to do in the evenings and on weekends. It started when we had a project deadline, but I chose to continue in an effort to “get ahead”. I think I was finding more satisfaction in my work than I was in the very busy family life with 4 young children. The extra time I spent working, took away from my time with Christy and the kids. I was able to justify this behavior with good performance appraisals and raises at work. Fortunately, I got some good advice before it was too late. Looking back on it now, it’s clear I was deceiving myself about my true motivations. I was making bad choices on my own instead of trusting that God would provide.

The distractions in this life are a challenge for making good choices and keeping our faith on track. As we come together in the Eucharist, let us pray for the wisdom to understand our true motivations and the faith to trust God in all parts of our life.


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